UK statistics consistent with national rise in STDs

National rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia have risen consistently for the past four years, according to recent statistics released by the Center for Disease Control.

Almost 2.3 million cases of these sexually transmitted diseases were diagnosed in 2017, the highest amount ever reported nationwide, according to the CDC. About 200,000 more cases were diagnosed in 2017 than in 2016.

“We are sliding backward,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin of the CDC in an August release. “It is evident the systems that identify, treat, and ultimately prevent STDs are strained to near-breaking point.”

While UK HealthCare isn’t diagnosing STDs by the millions, or even thousands, public health professionals are still seeing a rise in cases comparable to that evident in national data.

In 2017, data showed UK’s University Health Services collectively diagnosed approximately 621 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes. This number is a few shy of the CDC’s millions of diagnoses, but still a jump from years past.

“What’s happening at UK is aligned with what’s going on around the nation in colleges,” said Joanne Brown, a nurse practitioner with a doctorate in nursing practice. “I’m not surprised by the data,” Brown said.

Brown, who works as a sexual health expert within University Health Services, is responsible for compiling the university’s data on diagnoses.

Just a decade ago in 2007, UK HealthCare diagnosed just 96 cases of chlamydia. Fast forward to 2017, and UHS has diagnosed 474 cases, according to data provided by University Health Services.

UK’s statistics on reported cases of gonorrhea and herpes also showed steady increases in recent years. UHS diagnosed 41 cases of gonorrhea and 106 cases of herpes in 2017, according to statistics provided by UHS.

This jump is one seen throughout the nation and especially at colleges and universities, according to Brown. Despite UK’s health professionals’ best efforts to corral a spiking STD rate, numbers are still rising.

“That tells me we’re not screening enough people,” Brown said. “If we can screen them and treat them, our rate should start going down.”

In an attempt to stymie an influx of STD diagnoses, UHS has worked to increase the brevity of its outreach programs. Employees say that these efforts might enable them to reach the students that might not think they’re at risk of contracting STD’s.

“We’re trying to reach some of the students that don’t think they’re at risk or don’t want to come in to student health or be screened for whatever reason,” Brown said.

UHS regularly holds outreach events aimed at educating students on the truths of sexual health. The university also sponsors a student ambassador program called the “Sexperts” that works alongside UHS to better educate the student population.

“It’s not unusual for folks in this age bracket to think that these don’t happen to them and that they’re not at risk,” Brown said.

As part of UHS’s educational mission and its aim to decrease STD rates on campus, health professionals recommend that all students be screened and tested for STDs at least once per year.