South Carolina

Be careful, South Carolina. STDs spreading faster here than in most of US, study says

Bad news for South Carolina: increases in the state’s rate of sexually transmitted diseases make it among the top in the United States, according to a new study.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the increasing rates of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia infections in South Carolina are the third highest in the country, according to an analysis by Health Testing Centers, a company that provides STD testing.

The CDC reported a then-record high number of STD cases in the United States for 2016. But 2017 set new records, the study says. “In just a year, the 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis increased drastically,” according to the HTC study.

“We have seen steep and sustained increases over the last five years,” Dr. Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention said last year, NBC News reports. “Usually there are ebbs and flows, but this sustained increase is very concerning. We haven’t seen anything like this for two decades.”

South Carolina had the third-highest increase for chlamydia at 14.4%, the study says, behind Connecticut and New Hampshire, which both had increases of more than 27%.

The catch with those numbers is that South Carolina’s infection rate is much higher with about 650 people per 100,000 infected, according to the study. That’s well above Connecticut’s rate of 496 and New Hampshire’s 330.

South Carolina’s overall chlamydia rate is fifth in the country, the study says. The 2017 national average was about 529 per 100,000 people.

The state also ended up in the top five for gonorrhea. South Carolina’s infection rate for gonorrhea was about 254 people per 100,000, putting the state fourth in the nation. The national average is about 172, according to the study.

“With STD rates setting record highs and showing no sign of slowing down, it is up to the American public to take precautions regarding their sexual activity. While some STDs and STIs are treatable, many go unnoticed due to a lack of symptoms. That’s why getting tested for STDs is vital to the health and safety of you and your partners,” the study says.

South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control said it will will offer free STD testing Wednesday, April 17.

“From 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., residents can visit their local health department to be tested for hepatitis C, HIV and syphilis at no cost. Appointments are encouraged and may be scheduled by calling 1-855-4-SCDHEC,” DHEC said in a press release.

“STDs are preventable, and an individual’s first step in prevention and intervention is getting tested,”Ali Mansaray, director of DHEC’s STD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis Division, said in the press release. “With the number of STDs rising annually in South Carolina and across the nation, we cannot do enough to promote awareness and education about the importance of STD safety.”

“I think over the last five years, we’ve seen a rapid increase in the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections in the US, and we’re also starting to see a plateau in our fight against the HIV epidemic, as well,” Rob Stephenson, with the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said when the data was first released last year, according to CNN.

Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.