A disturbing trend has recently come to light concerning the spread of sexually transmitted infections in South Dakota.
The South Dakota Department of Health has released the July 2012 Health and Disease Summary, a monthly report that records the numbers of reportable diseases in South Dakota from the beginning of the year through July, and compares the numbers to the average recordings found in the last five years.
2124 cases of Chlamydia were recorded between January 1st and July 31st, a 24% rise from the five-year median. Numbers of HIV/AIDS have risen by 33%, and rates of gonorrhea came in 58% over the previous average.
Perhaps the most startling rise, however, comes in the recorded cases of syphilis. Nine cases of syphilis have been reported in South Dakota in 2012. However, as the disease has been so rare in the area, this is a rise of 350% from the five year median ("July 2012 Health and Disease summary").
These numbers, and the ages behind them, highlight the importance of sexual education for people of all ages, and especially among teenagers and young adults. The new cases of gonorrhea and Chlamydia are largely focused in the 15-24 year old demographic, with 185 gonorrhea cases and 1530 Chlamydia cases. The nine syphilis cases, however, are all comprised of older adults, with six cases reported in people between ages 40 and 64.
The lack of awareness and education abut safer sex is reflected in these troubling numbers. In an interview with The Daily Republic, a South Dakota publication, state epidemiologist Dr. Lon Kightlinger said “People aren’t having safe sex…[State reporting] can go a long ways to helping stop these diseases from spreading, but it is still alarming to see how this disease can start with one person and spread like a web” (Huber).
Hopefully, unfortunate numbers like this can bring about the push for greater openness and education about the spread and risks of sexually transmitted infections. Schools need to be able to give their students thorough, factual and practical information about the sexual choices they are making, and parents need to be willing to have the conversation with their children as well. Only then can the spread of these serious diseases be stemmed.