Although it is hopeful for West Virginians, it doesn't mean the state is a safe haven regarding STDs. That's because, despite the state's low rates of STDs, the state health department has observed a dramatic rise in the number of cases over the past four years.
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranked WV 39th in primary/secondary syphilis cases among the 50 US states, and regarding gonorrhea, the state ranked 45th with 41.6 cases.100,000 population, while between 2011 and 2015, zero cases of congenital syphilis were reported in WV.
In recent years, the country's STDs rates have substantially increased. In 2017 the rapid rise in STD rates accounted for $16.9 billion in annual health care costs for America. STDs come with chronic health impacts. Such as if a pregnant female gets infected with syphilis, this can cause severe developmental damages to the unborn baby. In females, chlamydia doesn't even produce any symptoms until later, when curing or treating the disease becomes highly difficult. By that time, the female's reproductive system has received considerable damage.
STDs are responsible for causing severe reproductive health complications, including ectopic pregnancy, infertility, cervical cancer, and congenital infection. Moreover, STDs can put the infected individual at a higher risk of acquiring/transmitting human immunodeficiency virus infection.
Most STDs don't show any symptoms, so it becomes difficult to detect the infection's presence in your body unless you get tested. Hence, it is imperative to get tested if you are sexually active or think you have an STD. The sooner you get tested, the earlier the infection will be detected, and you can get treated. Moreover, early diagnosis will prevent you from transmitting the infection to your partner(s).
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The West Virginia Division of STD & HIV is responsible for providing S.I.T.E (surveillance, intervention, testing, and education) services to the at-risk population. It also ensures West Virginians have access to quality care and prevention methods to control the outbreak. It is required to monitor the spread of STDs, prevent/reduce behaviors that cause STDs transmission, and strengthen referral systems to quality prevention/treatment services.
West Virginia State Health Department recently collaborated with Grindr dating app to spread the word about increasing STD rates and dangers of primary/secondary syphilis. According to a press release, the purpose of this partnership was to reach out to a broader range of at-risk populations.
A public service message was delivered to whoever opened the Grindr app. it is worth noting that this app caters to LGBTQ community members within a 50-mile radius of Morgantown. 66,000 users saw this message, and over 7% visited the monchd.org/syphilis.html web page within seven months. The health department will be partnering with other dating apps to spread awareness about the dangers of syphilis and other STDs.
Since the stigma surrounding STDs essentially prevents people from getting tested, the health department is trying to fight it by working in collaboration with other health care providers and community centers.
The Division of Surveillance and Disease Control is responsible for tracking disease occurrences to offer appropriate preventive interventions and educate the masses on protecting themselves from STDs.
Another critical initiative from the WV state government is the AIDS/HIV & STD Program. The STD Program offers support to local facilities and clinical services regarding disease detection, treatment, and prevention. It monitors prevention efforts, performs surveillance, and offers confidential investigation and consultation facilities too.
Moreover, the STD Program monitors disease morbidity in public and private sectors on Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and Herpes Simplex Virus Type II (HSV). As many as 9 disease investigators are located across the state to perform field epidemiology on HIV, Early Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Acute Hepatitis B infections.
West Virginia has the lowest STD transmission rates in the country, but young adults and teen cases are rapidly rising statewide. Despite being ranked low, the youth is badly impacted by STDs. The state's population-adjusted chlamydia rate in 2017 was the lowest in the USA with 226.1 cases/100,000 people, which is less than half the overall US rate and 75% lower than the state with the highest rate that year, Alaska. During 2014, WV ranked 50th in chlamydial infections with 245 cases/100,000 people, and in gonorrheal infections, the state ranked 44th with just over 45 cases/100,000 people.
Between 2013 and 2017, WV retained its status as the state with the lowest STDs cases and even marked an 18% decline in overall STDs cases, becoming the only state to report a drop during this period.
The state's population-adjusted gonorrhea rate was declared the 6th lowest in 2017, with 70.8 cases/100,000 population. It was nearly 60% lower than the overall national rate and over four times lower than Mississippi's rates, which ranked at the top in gonorrheal infection rates. Since 2012, the state's gonorrheal infection rates have remained steady, but a huge spike was noted in 2017. On the whole, the rate increased 58% between 2012 and 2017.
The state's primary and secondary syphilis infections rate was about 3.4 cases per 100,000 people, making it rank 43rd nationally. WV's syphilis rate was approximately a third of the overall US rate in 2017 and around 82% lower than Nevada's national leader in syphilis prevalence. Still, the fact cannot be ignored that the state's syphilis rate has increased substantially over the years, and between 2013 and 2017, it surged by 300%.
In WV, chlamydia is the most prevalent of all three reportable STDs, with 4,128 infections in 2017. This rate was lower than that of 2016, as it reported 4,718 cases that year. The next STD with a higher prevalence in WV was gonorrhea, with 1,301 reported cases in 2017, marking a 38.2% increase from 2016. The third most commonly reported STD is syphilis.
The state reported an 8% rise in syphilis cases between 2016 and 2017, and most of the cases were diagnosed among men who have sex with men, followed by the heterosexual population. In 2017, two congenital syphilis cases were reported in the state, one stillbirth, and one baby was born with congenital syphilis, which was successfully treated.
Monongalia and Morgantown Counties are the worst affected areas in WV. According to the Monongalia County Health Department, young adults and men having sex with men account for the highest number of cases in the region.
Chlamydia is more prevalent among people between 15-29 years as this age group accounted for 70.1% of all reported chlamydia cases in 2017. African American population was disproportionately affected by chlamydia, with 1,118 cases per 100,000 people. Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders reported 467.3 cases, while whites reported the highest percentage of cases with 64%.
Gonorrheal infections were reported the most among 15-29-year-old females and 20-34-year-old male population. The disparity was higher among African American population with 692.3 cases/100,000 people.
Early syphilis, which is the most infectious stage of syphilis, remains a grave health concern in WV. The number of cases is relatively higher among men who have sex with men. In 2011, the rate of early syphilis was 0.22/100,000 people, which increased to 5.07/100,000 people in 2015.
Regarding chlamydia, the white race reportedly accounted for 2,653 cases (152.5/100,000), becoming the most impacted race in WV. Blacks followed this trend with 705 cases/100,000 people, American Indian and Alaska Natives reported 12 cases with 316 cases/100,000 people, and Asians accounted for 10 chlamydia cases (80.6/100,000).
Regarding gonorrheal infection, whites reported 41 cases/100,0000 with overall 716 cases, blacks accounted for 437 cases (692/100,000), followed by American Indian and Alaska Native, which reported 2 cases (52.8/100,000).
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.