Colorado's sexually transmitted infection rates, on the whole, are not among the country's worst. According to a 2018-19 study conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state was ranked 28 among the 50 US states for the rate of chlamydia. It ranked number 27 for gonorrhea, and in the primary and secondary syphilis (P&S) rate, the state was at number 33.
Most people experience feelings of hesitation when going to get tested for STD, despite knowing they might have contracted one. EasySTD was created to change that.
Visit your nearest lab or clinic, order your home testing kit online, and follow the given instructions from an STD testing provider.
After ordering your STD test, visit the testing center to get tested or take a self sample including urine, cotton swab, or finger prick with the home testing kit and mail it back.
Receive the lab-certified results of your STD test from your test provider via mail or phone within 2 to 3 days. If the test comes positive, consult your doctor immediately.
County-wise, STI rates are the highest in Denver. During 2018 around 908.7 cases/100,000 people were reported. Adams, El Paso, and Arapahoe counties were two of the most affected regions in Colorado for all common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. It is worth noting that Denver has been reporting the highest gonorrhea and syphilis rates in Colorado since 2017.
If not treated at the right time, gonorrhea can cause severe health issues, including pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications, and may also lead to infertility in men and women.
Chlamydia is regarded as a silent epidemic since around 80% of patients remain unaware of their condition. According to the HIV/STD prevention program of Denver Public Health's director, Dr. Karen Wendel, those females who have been treated for previous chlamydial infection are at an increased risk of infertility or may experience life-threatening complications when pregnant.
Syphilis is another devastating bacterial infection that generally spreads through sexual contact. In the beginning, it feels like a painless sore on the rectum, genitals, or mouth and may go unnoticed. But, if left untreated, it can cause long-lasting negative health issues. Syphilis is a contagious disease as it spreads from person to person by contacting the sore's mucous membrane or skin.
All three common STDs are easily curable, and early treatment can prevent the infection from spreading. That's why, CDC recommends that every sexually active individual, pregnant females, and those with an infected partner should get themselves screened at least once a year or make it a part of their regular health evaluation.
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The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) reported a steady and alarmingly high increase in the number of STI cases in the state. Over five years, there has been a nearly 200% increase in gonorrhea cases while the number of people treated for three reportable STIs in Denver reached its peak in 2017.
However, the infection rates in most rural areas reportedly exceeded those in the urban or more populated areas. There were thousands of chlamydia cases diagnosed in the Denver metro and fewer than 100 in other regions of Colorado, stated the CDPHE's deputy director for disease control and environmental epidemiology, Dr. Daniel Shodell.
In 2016, nearly 25,569 cases of chlamydial infection were reported in Colorado, which means 461.7 cases/100,000 people were diagnosed, whereas nationwide, around 497.3 cases/100,000 were reported.
In 2017 there were over 36,200 new STI cases reported in Colorado. Out of these, 26,995 were chlamydia infections, 8,478 were gonorrhea cases, and 818 dealt with different stages of syphilis. These were the highest ever figures recorded in Colorado for each of these reportable infections.
Chlamydia rate in 2017 inclined to an all-time high with 481 cases/100,000 people, representing a 23% increase since 2013. On the other hand, the syphilis rate was over two times higher than in 2013, recording a staggering 61.5% leap with 14.6 cases/100,000 people. For gonorrhea, over 151 cases were reported per 100,000 people, which is 182.3% higher than the statistics of the past five years.
In 2018, Colorado broke the record again in all three reportable STIs, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Chlamydia became the most widespread STI in Colorado, with 29,124 cases reported in 2018 at a rate of 512 cases/100,000. The second most common STI was gonorrhea, with 8,894 cases at a rate of 156/100,000. This means, chlamydia increased by 6.4% in one year and gonorrhea by 3.3%.
The syphilis rate recorded a dramatic increase of over 32% between 2017 and 2018, as there were 1084 cases of syphilis at all stages reported in Colorado at a rate of 19 cases/100,000. The sharp rise in STIs has continued ever since, and now the state has a higher number of congenital and ocular syphilis.
Preliminary data from the CDPHE report revealed that from 2019, the dual diagnoses with HIV and STI are also on the rise, particularly for syphilis, and the number of syphilis, including ocular syphilis and gonorrhea cases, have surpassed the 2018 numbers. By December 2019, there were 26 reported cases of ocular syphilis in Colorado, while in 2018, there were 16.
Chlamydia is the most common infection in Denver, the worst-hit region of Colorado, with over 7,315 cases in 2018.
STI infections never discriminate between races, which is why almost every race, age, and ethnicity are affected by STIs in Colorado. For example, syphilis impacts men who have sex with men the most, but it is also reporting a sharp rise in women of reproductive age. Although the number is still not as high, with 30 cases in 2013 to over 70 cases in 2017, it is concerning that the numbers are rising steadily.
Eighteen newborns were diagnosed with congenital syphilis during 2013 and 2017, whereas males reportedly accounted for 86.2% of all syphilis cases. However, the proportion of females diagnosed with syphilis has been increasing steadily over the past few years. In 2018, around 134 cases were reported in women aged between 15 and 44 years. This means in 2018, 11.1 cases per 100,000 people were recorded, marking a 50% increase in the number of cases from 2017. Increased syphilis cases in women of childbearing age have caused a rise in congenital syphilis cases in Colorado, with seven cases reported during 2018 and 9 in 2019.
Similarly, gonorrhea infection rates are growing sharply, and up to 150% more cases were reported in 2018 than the rates between 2013 and 2017. Out of these, 2,703 cases were diagnosed in Denver. This increment in gonorrhea cases is observed in both women and men, while the greatest increase is noted amongst Latinos, followed by African-Americans.
In Denver, communities of color have reported a two-fold rise in syphilis diagnoses. Overall, males still account for over 90% of new cases despite that cases among women of childbearing age have been rising quickly.
Reportedly, in Colorado, birth rates among teens are going down, but STI prevalence is rising in this population, revealed a report from the CDPHE. These findings are part of the 2018 report titled State of Adolescent Sexual Health. This report suggests that Colorado has seen a drop of 61% in birth rates in people aged 15-19, while in pregnant teens, almost 72% were unintended pregnancies.
STI cases, on the other hand, are rising among teens in Colorado. Around 30% of gonorrhea cases, 23% of HIV, and nearly 7.3% of chlamydia cases between 2016 and 2017 were diagnosed among people aged between 15-29. Hispanic and black teens were three times more likely to get pregnant at an early age compared to white teens.
CDPHE offers partner notifications services for people with syphilis, new HIV diagnoses, LGV, and DGI in Colorado. Almost all health insurance plans cover STD testing for sexually active females and at-risk males in Colorado. At almost, all public health STD clinics, testing is either low-cost or free, and the process is kept 100% confidential. There are dedicated outreach and testing teams in different Colorado cities, such as the State of Adolescent Sexual Health, which offers confidential and rapid testing at various community sites.
Colorado has implemented the State Drug Assistance Program to help people cover the costs of expensive HIV medications, and Public Health Intervention Program is launched to help people pay for PrEP medications. Those residents of Colorado whose income is lower than 500% of the Federal Poverty Level, which in 2019 was $62,450 for one household, are eligible to subscribe to these programs.
Still, public health funding to deal with the increasing STD rates is insufficient to keep up with the outbreak, claims the medical director for El Paso County Public Health, Dr. Chris Nevin-Woods. In the past 15 years, the federal funding's purchasing power to fight STDs has decreased by 40%. The funding goes to local and state-level public health programs. Since STD cases are rising so dramatically in Colorado, it needs more federal funding to fight the outbreak.