HELENA – New data from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) show significant increases in some Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) in the state.
Montana saw 4,950 new cases of chlamydia last year, which was 383 more than 2017.
There were also 1,183 new gonorrhea cases reported in 2018, a 51% increase compared to the previous year. Gonorrhea had previously declined in 2017 but the 2018 numbers brought the projected case count to a 30-year high.
Additionally, 45 cases of syphilis were also reported in 2018 as well as 24 newly diagnosed HIV cases. Statistics show that 66% of 2018 syphilis cases were men who have had sex with other men. Also, 65% of cases those testing positive for syphilis said they had used social media apps and online sites to meet their partners.
“Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are, generally speaking, on the rise even in the nation so in Montana, we’re not immune to that,” said DPHHS HIV/STD/ Viral Hepatitis Section Supervisor Dana Fejas, M.P.H.
Fejas said one of the contributing factors to the increase in reported STDs is the increase in screenings done across the state to help catch and prevent transmission.
“When a provider diagnoses a patient with an STD like syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia they will report that to the health department,” said Fejas. “Some places have excellent screening practices so we’re of course seeing a lot more cases because we’re screening the right people.”
Fejas said the best ways of preventing catching an STD is by using protection each time, speaking with your partner about your sexual history or by abstinence.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone who is sexually active to get tested for STDs.
“The CDC does have guidelines about getting tested– so depending on what your activity is you may want to get tested more frequently than other times. The sooner you get in for testing and you find out you have an STI you can get treated, we can help the partner get treated and we can stop transmission to others,” noted Fejas.
According to the CDC, all adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV. Annual chlamydia and gonorrhea testing is also recommended for all sexually active women younger than 25 years, as well as older women with certain risk factors.
Click here for more information and resources regarding STDs.