St. Louis no longer STI capital of the US

| News Staff

Washington University students can no longer associate St. Louis with the staggering number of cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The infections that have long plagued the city, including gonorrhea and chlamydia, are becoming less common here.

St. Louis city used to have the largest number of infections of chlamydia and gonorrhea, but the number of reported cases has declined, making room for St. Louis to lose its claim to the title of STI capital.

The chlamydia and gonorrhea rates in the city decreased in the 2007-2008 year by 3 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

According to a St. Louis Department of Health report, there were 4,321 cases of Chlamydia reported in St. Louis in 2007 and 4,263 in 2008. In 2007 there were 2,526 reported cases of gonorrhea; the number dropped to 1,864 in 2008.

Several students did not have strong reactions to these rates.

“I can’t say I’m surprised or not, but it was a vacuum in my knowledge,” senior Neehar Garg said.

Many students were glad to find that the STI incidence rate had gone down.

“I think I did know that it was number one,” freshman Andrea Rodgers said. “I’m glad that it has moved down, since it is probably prevalent on college campuses.”

Bradley Stoner, associate professor of anthropology and medicine, expects some rates to continue decreasing.

“I think the gonorrhea rate may continue to fall, but I am still concerned about chlamydia and syphilis,” he said. “These diseases’ rates may go up because we still have work to do in implementing effective screening mechanisms that reach the highest-risk members of the community.”

This decrease of STIs is a result of the city better helping its citizens receive treatment for STIs. According to Dale Wrigley, bureau chief for communicable diseases at the Department of Health, there was an 8 percent increase in the amount of STI testing done in the city last year. This increase in testing likely led to the prevention of the further spread of the disease.

According to Pamela Walker, the city health director, St. Louis spends $1 million of tax money each year in order to combat STIs. The city also opened a new teen health center last year.

In an effort to prevent the spread of these diseases, the St. Louis Department of Health, in conjunction with organizations including Planned Parenthood, went to every middle school and high school in St. Louis last year to educate students.

“I really want to believe we’re getting the message out there,” Wrigley said.

According to Walker, teens still do not know sufficient information about the STIs.

Stoner believes that “condoms and communication are important keys to risk reduction” for young people.

“Ask your partners whether they have any symptoms, but because STDs are often asymptomatic, get screened for STDs together before embarking on a sexual relationship,” he said. “Also, get informed.”

Stoner suggested organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control, Planned Parenthood and the American Social Health Association.

Some students at the University felt as though they have an appropriate amount of knowledge about STIs.

“I am thoroughly acquainted with prevention [of STIs] and how they spread,” junior Sam Sullivan said.

But Sullivan felt that he still did not know as much as he could about the treatment of STIs.

“Maybe I’m not as thoroughly studied on treatment,” Sullivan said.

Although the decrease in the number of STIs has caused St. Louisans to be optimistic, experts warn that the city is not in the clear.

According to Wrigley, “True prevention happens every day, and you really have to keep it going.”