The number of people testing positive for having sexually transmitted diseases continues to be on the rise in Racine County, but that may be because more people are getting tested.
In Racine County, 1,608 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in 2017, a 215 case or 15 percent increase compared to 2016, according to the City of Racine Health Department. The department collects all of the data for the county on STDs.
The City of Racine makes up the bulk of those cases with 1,295 of them being reported in 2017, a 254 case or 24 percent increase compared to 2016. But it’s not alone. The state and nation are seeing higher numbers of STD cases, according to the Center for Disease Control.
More people being tested?
It’s hard to tell if more people are contracting the STDs or if more people are just being tested because of having access to more health care, said Dottie-Kay Bowersox, Public Health Administrator for the City of Racine Health Department.
“Anectodally — based on what we’re seeing of those coming into our clinic — we think it may be from more people having access to health insurance, but we’re not sure of that,” Bowersox said.
The data comes from a number of clinics and hospitals, but only when someone tests positive for having the diseases.
“So we just don’t know how many people are being screened on an annual basis because we’re only getting the data from the ones who are testing positive,” she said. “And if we wanted that information, the hospitals and clinics would have to go through all of their records to see what tests were ordered to get it.”
One thing that is for sure: the number of people having STDs is concentrated in Racine.
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In the City of Racine, the bulk of the cases are reported by people between the ages of 20 to 25. But most of the people with STDs in Racine County are between 19 and 29 years old. In both groups, males seem to be the dominant group contracting the diseases.
Responding to the problem
Knowing the sexual history of a sex partner and using a condom when having sex is imperative to stopping the spread of STDs. So the City of Racine Health Department offers a mail order service for free condoms or people can pick them up at the health department.
Residents can sign-up for the program by filling out a survey on the city’s health department website: cityofracine.org/health/condoms/
If someone suspects they might have an STD, Racine County residents can use their clinic. The City of Racine holds STD clinics twice a week where people can get a urine test or a pelvic exam from 2 to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesdays. The cost for the exam is $20, but people won’t be turned away for not having the ability to pay.
The diseases are treated with an antibiotic, but it’s the follow-up visit that is most important, Bowersox said.
“Those follow-up visits are really important so that we can document those past sex partners and let them know,” she said.
When asked if social media apps that make it easier to have casual sex have had anything to do with the rise in STDs, Bowersox said she wasn’t sure.
“Those apps don’t eliminate the need to know who your sex partners are,” she said. “We need to be asking these questions prior to engaging in sexual activity.”