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STD Rates Are Up In Clark County. Why?

<p>The bacteria that causes gonorrhea can cause infertility in women and men.</p>
BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

The bacteria that causes gonorrhea can cause infertility in women and men.

Rates of transmission for sexually transmitted diseases and infections are increasing nationwide.

It's no different in Clark County.

The  Southern Nevada Health District reports rates of infection for Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have gone up this year. Increases for syphilis and gonorrhea are statistically significant.

Marlo Tonge said gonorrhea was up 52 percent and syphilis was up 106 percent between 2011 and 2015. Chlamydia increased nine percent in that time, but stabilized between 2014 and 2015. 

While the health district knows the numbers are up, the reason why is "very hard to pinpoint," according to Tonge.

One factor that has changed over the past decade is the access to so-called hook-up sites or apps on smartphones, where people looking for sex can connect.

“We’re seeing a significant amount of individuals that we’re contacting about being positive for diseases, and that’s where they’re meeting people,” Tonge said. 

She said men who have sex with other men are seeing the biggest increase in sexually transmitted diseases. 

Hannah de la Cruz is with a company that has designed a kit for at-home STD testing. Get Tested allows people to gather their own samples and send them to a lab to be tested.

They receive an email when the testing is finished and they can check a private website for results. GetTested then directs people to resources for treating the infection. 

“We saw a need for people to take charge of their healthcare but do it in a way that’s convenient and accessible,” de la Cruz said.

She said there is a large number of young people who are sexually active but don't go to a doctor for preventive care and therefore may not get tested.

While Tonge supports the idea of expanding ways for people to be tested, she said there are limitations to at-home testing kits. One is the cost, which often is not covered by insurance. She also pointed out only testing blood, vaginal swabs and urine doesn't cover all the ways that infections can be transmitted. 

Tonge believes educating people, especially before they become sexually active, is really one of the best ways to prevent the spread of diseases and hopefully stop the trend.

“I think we all agree if we get to individuals early, and give them appropriate education and relevant education with regards to communicable diseases and just sexuality, I think an educated population makes really educated decisions later,” she said.

Editor's note: this story originally ran in November 2016.


SNHD Sexual Health Clinic

Planned Parenthood STD Testing

The Center Free HIV/STD testing

Hannah de la Cruz, GetTested;  Marlo Tonge, communicable diseases manager, Southern Nevada Health District

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)