According to Iowa Department of Public Health, there were 3,600 reported cases of the STD in 2017; in 2013, that number was only 1,471. In 2016, the number was 2,600.
According to health experts, the rise in numbers means fewer people are practicing safe sex. 80 percent of the newest infections are being seen in people ages 15 to 34 with a sharp increase in men being diagnosed with the disease. The infections are seen more in African-Americans (30 percent of the new cases) even though the group makes up just 3.5 percent of Iowa’s population.
Gonorrhea, which is a bacterial infection, is spread through sex with most carriers showing no symptoms. The infection is treatable with antibiotics, but health officials say some of its bacteria have become drug-resistant. This is making it difficult for doctors to cure the disease.
Gonorrhea isn’t the only STD on the rise in the state. Officials said cases of both syphilis and chlamydia increased from 2013 to 2017.
Iowa public health expert George Walton said there have been an array of studies in the last few years that show social forces are playing a role in the increasing STDs rates among populations. These social factors include economic opportunity, neighborhood location, alcohol stores in neighborhoods, income and incarceration rates.
Experts said many states are experiencing a rise in STDs. Many feel the reason is that safe-sex practices are not as important anymore because of the improvement in AIDS drugs that make it less frightening. Another reason may be the popularity of Internet dating apps where sex with strangers is socially-accepted.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only surefire way to stop the spread of gonorrhea is not to have sex. Experts also said people who engage in sexual activity should remain monogamous and use condoms. Pregnant women are urged to be tested for gonorrhea, which may spread to their unborn baby.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
Here’s what we've been up to recently.