Western STD rates higher than national average

By Joyce Stevenson

February 20, 2013

Sexually transmitted diseases continue to increase on campuses state-wide.   Approximately 7,400 of  cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea have been reported in the Kansas City Region which includes Missouri Western State University. In 2011 Missouri reported 35,689 cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea. Nineteen million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States in 2011.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that nearly half of them were among people between the ages of 15-24. Mitzi Teliczan, community health service health educator at the St. Joseph Health Department, said,  ‘Statewide 1 in 6 will be infected with an STD before the age of 25.” On campus the statistics are worse.  Beth Roderick, advanced practice nurse at Esry Health Center, says that 1 out of 4 patients test positive for an STD. “We don’t see as much gonorrhea as we do chlamydia, HPV is the most common now though,” Roderick said. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. Almost every sexually active person will acquire HPV at some point in their lives according to the CDC.  All cases of genital warts are caused by HPV.  HPV can be passed on between heterosexual and homosexual partners—even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms. Most infected persons do not realize they are infected or that they are passing the virus on to a sex partner. It is also possible to get more than one type of HPV. “Social networking has helped make this a subject we can talk about openly,” Teliczan said. Open communication can lead to better prevention of the infections. Mass e-mails, Facebook and tweets make it easier to promote upcoming events that focus on preventing sexually transmitted infections.  Organizations, such as MWSU Pride, recently turned the spotlight on this cause. Free HIV tests were offered to students celebrating Valentine’s Day by visiting the Heart Your Union event at Blum.  The event was sponsored by Pride and the campus and city health departments. The HIV test results are strictly confidential. Condoms and STD testing are available free of charge by appointment at the Esry Health Center located in Blum 203. “We are available to help students that are away from home,” Marti Burri, registered nurse said. The Center sets up an informational table about their services to help students during fall registration.  They participate in Griffon Edge and are at the fall Health Fair.  Burri does presentations about preventing STD’s at many events during the school year. The MWSU campus health center has been certified as an ‘STD’ site in Northwest Missouri for a couple years according to Roderick. This certification allows the clinic to offer many free and low cost services to men and women including STD testing and contraceptive treatment. The clinic says many of their patients are referrals.  They were notified by the health center that they were in possible contact with someone who was diagnosed with an STD and reported their name.  The student then comes in for a test. While anyone can become infected, most at risk are gay and bisexual men and women and young people.  In 2011 there was an increase of syphilis cases in the St Louis Region of Eastern Missouri from 35 in 2011 to 41 in 2012.   The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis (MDHSS) June 2012 report states that statewide there has been a decline in the last 5 years from 239 in 2007 to 136 total syphilis cases in 2011. Syphilis infection can cause visual impairment, stroke, death and an increased risk for HIV infection.  Men who have sex with men (MSM) account for 72 percent of all primary and secondary syphilis cases according to the CDC.  They say that homophobia and stigma often make it difficult for gay and bisexual men to seek appropriate care and treatment.  Without proper diagnosis the damage can be worse both physically and financially. STD’s cause a serious drain on the U.S. health care system, costing the nation about $17 billion in health care costs every year.  The CDC recommends an annual chlamydia and gonorrhea screening for all sexually active women.  Gay and bisexual men, and other MSM should have annual syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV testing. STD’s can lead to severe reproductive health complications, such as infertility.  It is estimated that undiagnosed STD’s cause 24,000 women to become infertile each year. Teliczan is available to do presentations on the topic for campus groups.  She can be reached at the St Joseph Health Department, Patee Market Health Center 816-271-4659. Burri is available to speak to organizations, also.  She can be reached at the Esry Student Health Center, Blum 203 816-271-4495