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Minnesota Health Officials Concerned Over Rising STD Numbers

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a record-setting number of people across the United States are contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

The CDC states 2.3 million people were diagnosed chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in 2017, a jump of nearly 10 percent from the year before.

Five years earlier in 2013, only 1.8 million people reportedly contracted the same diseases. It was the fourth consecutive year that the number of those diseases rose.

The steady increase was also evident in Minnesota. According to data from the Minnesota Department of Health, there were 934 cases of syphilis in 2017. Five years earlier there were 3,872 cases, equating to a jump of 74 percent. The CDC reports over that same five-year span, syphilis cases jumped 76 percent nationwide.

For gonorrhea, the CDC states cases nearly doubled for men from 169,130 cases in 2013 to 322,169 in 2017.

"We're very concerned about this huge increase in STDs," said Kris Ehresmann, Director of Infectious Disease with MDH. "There were 30,000 cases of STDs reported in Minnesota last year. That's a lot of people."

Ehresmann cited several reasons for the increases.

"It is true that many of these STDs, you don't have symptoms right way so people may not be seeking treatment," she said.

She adds that condom usage has dropped because people aren't as concerned about contracting HIV now that the infection is more treatable than in years past.

"We also know that resources for public health for responding to STDs have not increased commensurate to the number of cases," she said. "How do we have conversations about healthy sexual behaviors because that's what it's really gonna take to really get to the bottom of this issue."

That's where coalitions like CRUSH, Community Restoring Urban Sexual Health, come in.

"April 25 this year we did our third annual STI Testing Day and we had 56 clinics (across Minnesota) part of it. We had over 470 youth and young people get tested," said Mark Campbell, Co-Chair of CRUSH.

The group is a partnership between several health-related agencies across the Twin Cities with a focus on educating people, specifically youth and young adults, about safe sex practices.

Campbell said seeing more and more people get tested is a positive, however it also leads to an increase in the number of reported cases of STDs.

CRUSH also hosts events that encourage teenagers and their parents to talk about safe sex, conversations the state health department also feels can have an impact.

"We know that once young people are in charge of their sexual health that they're able to make better decisions," said Campbell. "We want to target the whole city, we want to target the Twin Cities, and with our statewide testing day we want to target the whole state."

CRUSH's Youth Council is hosting a back-to-school event on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 2404 Plymouth Avenue North, Minneapolis from 1-4 p.m. There will be workshops on safe sex, free and confidential STD testing as well as food and entertainment for youth and families.

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