The Daily Mail is reporting on a spike in syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV rates in the U.S. which some experts believe is the result of engaging in high-risk behaviors such as the use of social media to arrange sexual encounters.
Rhode Island has been hit hard by the rising numbers of STIs, particularly that of syphilis which rose by 79 percent between 2013 and 2014. Gonorrhea jumped 30 percent and HIV cases rose by almost 33 percent during the same time period.
“These data send a clear signal that despite the progress we have made in reducing STDs and HIV over the years, there is more work to do,” said Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, adding that “the recent upturn in STDs in Rhode Island follows a national trend”.
Those trends are indeed alarming, particularly that of syphilis which is on the rise among men who are active in the homosexual lifestyle. In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, gay men accounted for 75 percent of all primary and secondary cases of syphilis. If not treated correctly, syphilis can lead to visual impairment and stroke, as well as increase a person’s risk of contracting HIV.
Youth between the ages of 15 and 24 account for the highest number of reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea. Young women suffer the most serious long-term health consequences with 24,000 girls a year becoming infertile as a result of these infections.
Researchers believe reported increases in STIs are attributable to both better testing by providers as well as to an increase in high-risk behaviors that have become more common in recent years.
Dr Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive at the UK-based Terrence Higgins Trust, told the Mail that “Dating apps have given people more opportunities to meet potential partners than ever before, and we are currently looking at their impact on gay men's sexual health.”
In the meantime, it’s important that persons in these high-risk groups either refrain from sexual activity before marriage or make STI screening a regular part of their health care program.
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