Kentucky officials and health experts are blaming the rising number of STD cases on the meth and opioid crisis. According to experts, records were broken in 2017.
Buffalo Trace District Public Health Director Allison Adams said the rising numbers are just another side effects of the current drug epidemic hitting the nation. She said people are trying to hide and feed their addiction, which is making it harder to find and treat problems like STDs.
Lee manages the STD prevention program in Kentucky and said drug
users are at a higher risk of getting an STD because they tend to
engage more in risky behavior such as sharing needles or having
unsafe sex. She said untreated STDs could cause other health problems
such as PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), pregnancy complications
and other fertility issues.
said it can also increase their chances of getting HIV.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the 2017 STD rate set
another new record, marking a fourth consecutive year of major
increases. Kentucky saw a 62 percent increase in its syphilis rates
between 2014 and 2017.
County’s syphilis rates were the state’s highest in 2017, with
46.6 cases for 100,000 people. That is double the state’s average
of 16.4. State officials also saw double the number of cases for
gonorrhea – 361 cases per 100,000 people.
said doctors often ask patients to tell them what is putting them at
risk for catching an STD. However, in 2012, officials started to hear
more instances of drug abuse about the same time the nation saw a
score of deaths related to heroin.
supervisor for the Fulton County Health Department in Western
Kentucky Debbie Barnes said many of the women she has treated are
coming back over and over again with an STD. Barnes said, in some
cases, the cases are so bad that women have become sterile.
Adams and Barnes believe some women are exposed to the STDs after
they prostitute themselves out for the drugs.
said many women are using their body as payment to score drugs.
reason for Kentucky’s higher STD rate could also be attributed to
anonymous sex thanks to dating apps like Grindr and Tinder.
Moon with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department said people
using these apps might not know the person’s name or phone number,
which means they can’t treat the partners of the original patient
who comes in for treatment. Moon said this causes the disease to
spread and run rampant.
said it’s many young people that are infected with an STD, but
Fayette County is seeing a rise in infections hitting the 50 and
older population too.
said, in the past, they could target younger individuals, but today,
they need to target all age groups. She said everybody is engaging in
sexual behavior of some type and not practicing safe sex.
Johnson works as the Christian County Health Department’s
epidemiologist who said people are not comfortable using condoms and
are afraid of asking a partner to use one. He said it boils down to
a person who has an STD may also face problems in getting treatment.
Adams said many people are uninsured or can’t easily access healthcare, which is why many people turn to the emergency room for getting STD treatment.
health departments are ordered to follow up with any person testing
positive for an STD. According to Lee, many people fail to get tested
regularly to ensure they’re clean or not.
said doctors in other states can provide treatments to both partners
even if one person has been to see the doctor known as expedited
partner therapy. Kentucky does not allow this practice, but it could
help combat the STD rates.
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