STD Incidence in Minnesota Up 6% in 2003, State Health Department Report Says
The number of newly diagnosed cases of sexually transmitted diseases in Minnesota increased 6% between 2002 and 2003, according to a report released on Monday by the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (Marcotty, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5/11). According to the state STD Surveillance Report 2003, 14,111 STD cases were reported in 2003, compared with 13,318 cases in 2002. The number of reported chlamydia cases increased 6% from 10,118 cases in 2002 to 10,714 cases in 2003, and the number of gonorrhea cases increased 5% from 3,051 cases in 2002 to 3,202 cases in 2003, according to the report. The report also shows that the number of syphilis cases increased 31% from 149 cases in 2002 to 195 cases in 2003, and the number of new syphilis cases among gay and bisexual men in Minneapolis and St. Paul has increased over the past two years. In addition, 42% of newly reported syphilis cases among gay and bisexual men in 2003 occurred in men who were also HIV-positive (Health Department release, 5/10). Although the number of new HIV cases in the state dropped between 2002 and 2003, health officials said that the current increase in the number of new syphilis cases could be an indicator of "higher HIV rates in coming years," according to the Star Tribune. According to the report, the most commonly diagnosed STD in the state in 2003 was chlamydia, which affected 218 out of every 100,000 Minnesotans. Health officials also said that STD prevalence among young people is "rising quickly," with more than two-thirds of new cases occurring among people between the ages of 15 and 24 in 2003, compared with one-third in 2000, health officials said, according to the Star Tribune. STD prevalence among minority groups also was "high," the Star Tribune reports. In 2003, there were 1,490 new cases for every 100,000 black Minnesota residents, according to the report (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5/11).
Dr. Harry Hull, state epidemiologist and director of the health department's Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division, said, "The continued growth of sexually transmitted diseases emphasizes the need for continued education and early detection," adding, "These diseases can be prevented through targeted prevention efforts." Hull also said that STDs "disproportionately impact certain populations" and that "[t]here are definitely groups that we need to make every effort to reach" (Health department release, 5/10). Hull added that the increase in the number of STD cases does not "necessarily mean more young people are engaging in unsafe sex," according to the Star Tribune. Instead, the increases could be the result of more people getting tested, leading to more reported cases, the Star Tribune reports. Dr. Carol Ball, medical director for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota, said that some of the "blame" for the increases in the number of STD cases could be sex education programs that promote abstinence, according to the Star Tribune. She added that abstinence education programs are ineffective "in getting young adults to avoid risky behavior that might result in infection and unintended pregnancy." She also said that young people "need all the methods and information that is available." Hull said that the health department did not have any research connecting increased rates of STDs with abstinence-focused sex education programs, the Star Tribune reports (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5/11).