Continuing a multi-year trend in Arizona, STD case rates rose in 2017. While the full state report won’t be released until April, individual counties throughout the state are showing a dramatic rise between 2016 and 2017. Maricopa county, for example, has shown a 14% increase in STDs with a total of 35,859 cases last year.
There was a dramatic increase in many different infections in Maricopa County. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis cases are all reported to the health department. Each saw a double digit increase in the past year. This county, which includes the city of Phoenix, saw the highest spike in STDs it has had in almost two decades. Other counties are starting to report similar spikes.
This reflects a national trend of growing STD numbers. “Our local increase mirrors the nationwide increases,” said Shauna McIsaac, director and chief medical officer of Pinal County’s public health district. “The message we want to get out is the importance of getting tested and treated.” Pinal County also had large increases in STDs last year.
Health officials throughout the state are urging the use of protection when engaging in sexual activity and the need for more testing options. They also warn of the dangers of anonymity when engaging in online dating. In Arizona, like many other communities, the blame is falling heavily on the increase of electronic hookup apps for the surge of STDs.
“We have seen some behavioral changes,” said Tom Mickey, a Maricopa County Department of Public Health program manager. “There is more anonymity with the app partners.”
Still, a need for comprehensive sexual health education is needed. Many states do not require sexual health education in their curriculum. To date, only 22 states currently require this type of programming in schools and only 13 of those states require the programming to be medically accurate. Arizona is often considered one of the weakest states for sexual health education in the entire country. This may also play a factor into the increasing number of STDs, especially among younger adults.
If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to an STD in Arizona or anywhere else, you should have STD testing performed. Many times the symptoms of an STD will not be obvious and testing can be the only way to detect an infection.