With more than 2,000 reported cases of sexually transmitted infections in Dane County so far this year, officials are looking to raise awareness of this “alarming” health issue.
According to a Dane County statement released Tuesday, one in two sexually active young people will get an STI by the age of 25 nationally and most of them will be unaware they have contracted one.
Mary Jo Hussey, the Public Health of Madison and Dane County HIV/AIDS program coordinator, said the county released the findings in an effort to inform the public of the new STI clinic in Dane County.
“It gives us an opportunity to raise the issue and talk about sexually transmitted diseases and infections and remind people that even if they don’t have health insurance, there are still ways they can be tested and treated,” Hussey said.
Craig Roberts, an epidemiologist at University Health Services and clinical assistant professor, said an STI can be anything transmitted through sexual activity and can be caused by hundreds of things. He said that the five main STIs include HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea and pelvic inflammatory disease.
While the primary age range of those with STDs and STIs is 15 to 25 years old, this does not mean that this number consists mainly of college students, Roberts said. In fact, he said that the rates of chlamydia on campus are lower than those of the overall general age population in the county.
However, he said people under the age of 25 are 50 percent more likely to be exposed to and come in contact with a STD or STI.
Dane County Supervisor Leland Pan, District 5, said the county should be worried about STIs no matter their prevalence among residents.
“It is a real concern, no matter what the rate,” Pan said. “It’s definitely something that needs to be worked on.”
In addition to county services, Roberts said UHS provides students with STD and STI screening, testing and treatment.
UHS sees approximately 5,000 students a year regarding STDs and STIs, Roberts said.
Pan also said the county needs to ensure that residents are educated on safe sex as well as treatment for STDs and STIs.
“We need to make sure there is proper education for all ages,” Pan said. “There are a lot of good organizations on campus like [Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment] and Sex Out Loud that need to be supported to provide people with information on safe sex.”
Roberts added that he is working to raise awareness of the issue on campus.
“We’ve always been attune to this issue and are working to further promote it through social media and hoping to inform students of the services offered at UHS,” Roberts said.
Hussey said the main problem in the county is not an increase in cases, but the fact that the number has remained steady.
“There has not been an increase in STIs over time, but the bigger concern we have is that the number is not going down and continues to remain a problem,” she said.