Special to The Dallas Examiner
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called it an “epidemic.” Reported cases of the sexually transmitted infections chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis all increased between 2020 and 2021 – up 32% – reaching a total of more than 2.5 million reported cases nationwide.
Black/African Americans and Native Americans/Alaska Natives continue to be disproportionately infected with STIs. These groups are more likely to face social conditions that make it more difficult to stay healthy, according to the CDC.
While troubling, the report came as no surprise to infectious disease experts at Parkland Health. Reported cases of syphilis and gonorrhea have increased every year in Dallas County since 2015, according to data published in the 2022 Dallas County Community Health Needs Assessment.
“STIs are increasing, and most people who have STIs do not have symptoms. The only way to know you have an STI is to be tested regularly,” said Helen King, MD, the infectious disease specialist at Parkland Health and assistant professor of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Having untreated STIs can impact your ability to have children, so it is so important to get tested regularly and treated.”
Dallas County recorded more than 3,000 cases of syphilis and more than 10,000 cases of gonorrhea in 2020. Although slightly down from the year prior, more than 17,000 cases of chlamydia were still reported in 2020 and 688 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Dallas County as well, according to the CHNA.
April is STI Awareness Month, but Parkland offers testing, treatment and STI education year-round throughout our health system, including at our 16 Community Oriented Primary Care health centers and through our Access to Care & Coverage Program, which brings Parkland to a neighborhood near you.
“Parkland is committed to reducing STIs in our community by empowering our community members to take control of their sexual wellness,” said Dr. King. “Getting tested, getting treated, and talking to your provider and partners about options to protect your sexual wellness can keep you safe and healthy.”
Having an STI can increase your chances of acquiring HIV, according to Dr. King who adds that anyone who is having sex should learn about their options to prevent STIs and HIV, including testing, condoms and PrEP, the medication that prevents HIV.
For more on the CDC Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance report, visit www.cdc.gov/std, and for more information about Parkland services, visit www.parklandhealth.org.