STD rates up across Washington, state health department says

SEATTLE – Public health professionals are sending a warning about an alarming health concern.  Sexually transmitted disease rates are up across the state.  Those statistics include increases in chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea.

Here are some numbers released by the Washington State Department of Health:

Chlamydia Cases:

King County: 9,760 in 2017 from 9,400 in 2016

Pierce: 5,434 in 2017 from 4,976 in 2016

Snohomish: 2,619 in 2017 from 2,488 in 2016.

But new HIV cases in King County are down 50% in the last decade when you look at men who have sex with men.  You can attribute that work to a number of organizations, awareness campaigns, and new medical advancements.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good when it comes to HIV cases.  Relatively new forms of pre-emptive treatment and the success of keeping people alive and healthy who are HIV-positive has made contracting the virus less scary and more manageable.

“This is a consequence of our success that as we’ve had better treatment and the risk of HIV deaths have declined. We’ve also seen changes in the population’s behavior, which has diminished condom use, which has led to rising rates of STIs,” said Dr. Matthew Golden, director of Public Health Seattle -King County's HIV STD Program.

That includes a 200% increase in the rate of syphilis over the last decade and increases in chlamydia and gonorrhea as well.  What’s also alarming is the uptick of new cases in heterosexual women.  Part of the reason for that may be because some women don’t notice any symptoms.  It’s even more dangerous for pregnant women.

“The most devastating consequence of syphilis is congenital syphilis, which is affecting a baby which is a potentially fatal infection,” said Golden.

Many people may be thinking this is the millennials or Gen X or the younger population that’s fueling this spike in STD cases.  But numbers show premartial sex peaked with kids who were in high school in the 1980s.

“The millennials are not actually having more sex than their parents had, probably they’re having less sex than their parents had overall so I don’t think that’s true,” said Golden.

Bottom line is experts say people just aren’t practicing safe sex.  Golden says at the very least people should be using condoms when they have a new sexual partner. at least in the beginning.  You can get an STD from oral sex despite some misinformation out there.  There are many places that offer free STD testing and even hand out condoms for free.