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St. Louis health specialists concerned about rise in STIs

Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are on the rise nationwide.

ST. LOUIS — Health officials here in the St. Louis area are concerned about the increase in sexually transmitted infections.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showed that 2.5 million STI cases were reported nationwide last year with no signs of slowing down.

Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are the main three health officials are concerned about, but there's also been an increase in HIV cases.

Data from the State of Missouri shows over the last four years, St. Charles County, St Louis County and St. Louis City have all seen an increase in cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

“We were realizing that the increase was happening in 2019. And then the pandemic hit and so much shifted we weren't able to handle it in a way that we should have handled in 2019,” said Dr. Enable Shacham with St. Louis University’s College for Public Health and Social Justice.

Shacham said during the pandemic routine STI testing and doctor visits came to a halt.

“So among those people who had symptoms, they were probably still getting care. But lots of people don't experience symptoms when they have a sexually transmitted infection. In fact, most of them do not,” Shacham said.

Shacham and Jon Martin, Vivent Health’s Director of Prevention Services, say it’s time for people to get back to routine STI testing and taking preventative measures like using a condom.

“But also we encourage people to talk to their partner, talk to them about, what what are the expectations? How are we going to protect ourselves? What are the implications of if we do this, if we do that? Have an open conversation,” Martin said.

Martin said many STIs are treatable or curable with medication but if the spread continues there could be roadblocks.

“There are reports here and there are of treatment-resistant strains of gonorrhea, for example. And that is really concerning if that were to spread. And we do not have any medications that are going to address that, that could be a real issue,” Martin said. 

To try and slow the spread and bring more awareness, Vivent Health has been doing mobile testing on busy weekend nights and at events.

People can also make appointments at their clinic for free STI testing and receive low-cost care if they have a diagnosis.

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