The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is cautioning people that sexually transmitted diseases (STD) rates are on the rise and approaching record highs.
“In 2019, we’ve seen an increase in STDs reported across the entire state of Montana and nationwide,” said Dana Fejes, the health department's STD/ HIV program manager. “Overall, Montana’s gonorrhea and syphilis rates have gone up 25 to 30 percent compared to last year.”
Gonorrhea is projected to reach 1,500 hundred cases this year, according to the health department. That is the highest reported case of the disease in the past four decades.
Other STDs like chlamydia are also seeing an increase in reported cases.
“It’s hard to pinpoint the root cause of the rise in STDs,” said Fejes. “We just want to make sure to raise the awareness of situation so that people can take steps to protect themselves.”
Fejes says the increase in reported STD is very concerning and stresses the importance of safe sex.
“A lot of our cases are in their 20s and 30s, and we do see some folks that are younger,” said Fejes. “The best way to not get an STD obviously is not to have sex. If that isn’t a possibility, use a latex condom and make sure you are using it correctly.”
Social media and dating apps may be one of factors as to why people are having anonymous or unprotected sex. Those platforms also make it harder for people to reach out to their sexual partners if an STD is discovered.
Having unprotected sex, with multiple or anonymous partners, also increases the likelihood that someone might get infected with HIV.
“Know who you’re having sex with, reduce the number of anonymous sex partners,talk to your partner about STDs and learn about STDs, what to look for and what to avoid,” explained Fejes. “And of course, if you’re sexually active we do recommend that you get screened for STDs.
The state partners with health providers across Montana to offer free or low-cost testing for people.
“When an STD case is reported, the local health department will try to find their partners and make sure they can come in for testing a treatment,” said Fejes. “Early detection and treatment is incredibly important to ensure the disease doesn’t progress further, and you won’t be infecting others.”
More information about testing locations and resources available in the state can be found here.