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STD rates drop, but that may mean trouble

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted disease rates can be complicated. On the one hand, most people would assume that lower STD rates would be a good thing and higher ones would be bad, but that's not always the case. Higher rates can simply mean that more people are using STD testing services, while lower ones may mean that fewer people are ordering tests and getting treated for these sometimes serious infections and viruses. For example, a recent article published by, a Southern Illinois news source, reported that the number of individuals in St. Clair County appears to have dropped considerably in 2012, but health officials believe that may not necessarily be good news.

According to the news source, the county has consistently ranked in the top five for STD rates in Illinois, yet in 2012, chlamydia rates dropped 31 percent and gonorrhea rates dropped 35 percent.

Is it a good thing?
While health officials in the area are hopeful that these rates are legitimate, they are concerned that it may be the sign of a disturbing trend.

"The statistics are based on diagnosis, which is very misleading since so many people don't seek treatment," St. Clair County director of Health Protection Barbara Hohlt told

She added that since the initial symptoms of STDs often go away after a few days, many people do not get tested. However, it's important for all people to remember that just because they feel fine, that doesn't mean they're in the clear. Some STDs and even HIV can have no symptoms for years or even decades, which means that a person could be unknowingly infecting sexual partners.

According to BDN, the statistics are considered provisional until approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Hohlt told the news source that once the health department investigates, it may become clear that the numbers are actually much higher.

Along with traditional care, St. Clair County offers expedited partner services. This is a practice in which a person who is diagnosed with an STD can be given a prescription by their doctor to give to their partner so he or she can be treated immediately. This is an important, since it ensures that all individuals will get access to treatment even if they do not get tested themselves.

Why get tested?
Some people may still be unsure of why they should engage in STD testing. According to, a service provided by MTV, by the age of 25 roughly one half of all sexually active individuals will get an STD. While that may seem like a high number, individuals should remember that the human papillomavirus is extremely common and can clear up on its own in 90 percent of cases, which is why most sexually active individuals have this STD and never know it. However, even though HPV can clear up on its own people can still pass it on to their sexual partners, and they may give it to someone who is part of the 10 percent of the population whose body does not fight off virus, which can lead to cervical cancer.

Also, it's impossible for people to be 100 percent sure of their partner's entire sexual history, which is another reason why it's important for people to get tested. The bottom line is that there are no downsides to getting tested, since it offers people vital information about their health, but there are many downsides to not getting tested and allowing and spreading STDs.

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