STI cases skyrocketing in Monroe County, community effort needed, new report says

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BOSTON – MARCH 12: Pictured are a selection of condoms March 12, 2004 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bush administration is considering requiring warning labels on condom packages noting that the contraceptive devices do not protect users from all sexually transmitted diseases. (Photo by William B. Plowman/Getty Images)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Trillium Health and ACT Rochester released an alarming report Thursday highlighting the spike of sexually transmitted infections in Monroe County and offered guidance on how to curb further spread.

Monroe County is seeing some of the highest STI rates in New York State.

HIV cases are skyrocketing. In the first nine months of 2020, there were 55 news cases confirmed in the county. Those 55 HIV cases are more than any of the four years prior.

Here’s a few key takeaways from the report:

  • Gonorrhea cases increased 77% in 2020 compared to 2019
  • In 2018, Monroe County had 5,382 cases of chlamydia and 1,888 cases of gonorrhea – among the highest rates in the state outside of New York City
  • Increased screening, changing transmission patterns, and decreased condom use account for some of the reported increases

It’s important to note that many cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia go unreported and aren’t accounted for in this report.

Officials say the increased numbers of STIs in the county are partly due to increased screenings, changing transmission patterns, and decreased condom use.

More than half of the reported cases are found in individuals under the age of 26. The report says that non-Hispanic Black individuals, and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are at the highest risk for contracting an STI.

The report also outlines recommendations to combat the spread. Starting with primary providers, each patient should be asked detailed questions about their sexual history and drug use as a way to inform screening, treatment, prevention and education.

Along with this, the report recommends that all sexually active people should be screened for STIs and HIV, making sure to test all sites of exposure including the throat, rectum and genitals. Providers should also offer pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV.

On top of these protocols, officials say public education on STIs and how they are spread could be key to preventing spikes in the county. Because the concepts of infection transmission aren’t well understood by many, there could be a disconnect between perceived vs. real risk for STI’s and HIV.

“We don’t discuss sex because it is considered by some to be an uncomfortable and taboo subject. But we must start talking about it so we can address the continuing rise of sexually transmitted infections in our community. This report drives home the need for individuals to be more open with health care providers and partners and focus on how to stay healthy,”  said Ann M. Johnson, Executive Director of ACT Rochester.

Monroe County has a STD/HIV testing site in Rochester. You can read more about how and where to get tested here.

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