Sexually transmitted disease (STDs) in the US state of Iowa have been climbing for the past ten years. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), the state has been witnessing an outbreak of common STDs including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary/secondary syphilis.
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.
State health department is unclear whether this increase is due to expanded access to testing or increasing disease transmission, or both. As per the state health officials, STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing although got reduced in 2020 due to the coronavirus epidemic, still, there was a 30% increase in gonorrhea cases and a whopping 53% rise in syphilis, compared to 2019 statistics.
"Regardless of the exact cause of these increases, we do know that more individuals are testing positive. Whether this indicates a growing trend of increased transmission or simply more individuals seeking testing, it indicates there is more infection than we were previously aware," stated the state health department.
STDs refer to a group of infections predominantly transmitted via sexual intercourse. However, their infection range isn’t limited to the reproductive organs as STDs can infect different body sites. Moreover, STDs can be transmitted by all types of sex, such as anal, vaginal, and oral. Common STDs include gonorrhea, chlamydia, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), herpes, human papillomavirus, and syphilis. In Iowa, chlamydia is the most commonly reported sexually transmitted disease. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are caused by bacteria while HIV is caused by virus.
STD testing is important for every sexually active individual in Iowa and across the USA because both statewide and nationwide trends suggest an alarming spike in STDs cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) STD Surveillance Report 2019, around 1,808,703 chlamydia cases were reported to the agency, making it the most common reportable disease in the USA that year and marking a 2.8% increased from 2018. Approximately 616,392 gonorrhea cases were recorded, marking a whopping 92% increase compared to 2009 statistics. About 29,813 cases of syphilis at all stages were reported among which over 38,900 were primary/secondary syphilis cases. The country has been witnessing an increase in Primary/syphilis cases as every year 11.2% increase in cases is reported to the CDC.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, STDs can lead to severe health consequences, including irreversible and permanent damage to the reproductive tract. This could cause chronic pain across the abdominal area and impact an individual’s ability to have children. Untreated STIs and STDs also increase an individual’s vulnerability to HIV. However, these adverse health consequences could be avoided if people undergo regular screening for STDs. Make STD testing a compulsory part of your annual health checkup and those with multiple partners should get tested every three to six months.
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According to IDPH, Iowa state reported 14,695 chlamydia cases in 2018, which is 5.8% higher than 2017, and 2,839 gonorrhea cases, which is over 28% higher than 2017 rates. Moreover, there were nearly 283 syphilis cases reported to the department, marking a 1.7% decrease from 2017. Though less STD tests were performed in 2020 since the state’s health department’s focus was shifted to COVID-19 testing, but going by the 2019 statistics, there was a 53% increase in syphilis and 30% increase in gonorrhea cases.
Polk County reported the highest number of chlamydial infections with around 3,111 cases in 2017 followed by the Linn County where the health department recorded higher number of gonorrhea cases with 355 in 2017. Third most impacted county in Iowa was the Des Moines County, which reported 357 gonorrhea cases in 2017. It is worth noting that Des Moines County located in southeast Iowa reported a 296% rise in gonorrhea cases between 2016 and 2016, which was the highest incline rate for Iowa in the past ten years.
In 2019, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported that there were 16,046 chlamydia cases at a rate of 508 cases/100,000 population. The state recorded 5,310 gonorrhea cases at a rate of 168 cases/100,000 people. According to the IDPH, chlamydia rose by 9.3% in 2019 compared to 2018 rates whereas gonorrhea recorded a 9.7% increase from 2018. However, the IDPH claims that the state has been recording higher STD rates since 2011. in 2011, Iowa reported 10,928 chlamydia cases and 1,966 gonorrhea cases.
The Iowa State Public Health Department reported that chlamydia diagnosis rate was particularly higher among young adults, aged between 15 and 24. In 2019, the state reported higher STD rates among African-Americas as they were around eight times more likely to get diagnosed with an STD than non-Hispanic white race. Furthermore, Alaska Natives, Native Americans, and other races were at least 3 times more likely to report an STD. On the other hand, Hispanic or Latinos were two times more likely than white race to report an STD.
It must be noted that racial and ethnic minorities aren’t the only group of population experiencing a spike in STD rates in Iowa state. Bisexual and gay men account for half of the primary and secondary syphilis cases and are over 40 times more likely to report gonorrhea compared to heterosexual males. The most alarming factor of STD outbreak is that young, college students are more vulnerable to chlamydia and gonorrhea than any other age group.
State health officials claim that syphilis cases are rising among young females as well. In 2019, the state reported an alarming increase in syphilis case among females. Overall, syphilis cases increased in Iowa considerably with 360 cases in 2019 to 500 cases in 2020. The second most impacted population group regarding syphilis as men who have sex with men.
"Already in 2021, the number of cases among women has more than doubled, compared to 2020. So as you can imagine, as more populations are affected, there's more opportunity for the infection to spread," said George Walton, the state’s STD Program director.
Some STDs that are reportable to the Iowa Department of Public Health include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. The IDPH collects data on STDs to gain a better understanding of the way these infections are impacting the residents of the state. The data is also used to develop disease intervention strategies to address the negative consequences linked with STDs within different communities. Disease Intervention Specialists (DIS) are especially designated health department staff who work with medical providers and patients to ensure that STD-infected patients and their partners have access to necessary resources for their health and working towards reducing infection’s transmission.
The Iowa Department of Public Health's Sexually Transmitted Disease Program is an important initiative launched to mitigate the adverse effects of STDs among Iowans. Iowa is a rural state and therefore, the state’s STD program has to collaborate with other agencies, interest groups, and organizations for the delivery of services and information. Under the STD Program, nearly 58 provider sites have been established for chlamydia and gonorrhea treatment and testing. The initiative is unique as it combines local health department and a broad network of medical providers to control the spread of STDs in Iowa.
Planned Parenthood is offering confidential STI and HIV testing in Iowa’s college campuses. People can get tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, HPV, HIV, trichomoniasis, and hepatitis. Planned Parenthood also helps diagnose Urinary Tract Infections, yeast infection, and bacterial vaginosis. The facility accepts almost all private insurance and most forms of public insurance.