A recent increase in Montana’s cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) has state and local public health officials concerned, and they are urging safer sex practices to avoid contracting disease.
According to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, Montana’s rate of gonorrhea nearly doubled to 400 cases in 2014, and the number of chlamydia cases increased to more than 4,100.
Further information from DPHHS shows that Flathead County had 300 cases of chlamydia in 2014, along with eight cases of gonorrhea, and five of syphilis. The syphilis cases are the highest number in the state.
In 2013, Flathead County saw 256 cases of chlamydia, seven of gonorrhea, and one of syphilis. Those numbers are an increase from 2012, which had 241 cases of chlamydia, one of gonorrhea, and no reported cases of syphilis.
Many of the STDs infecting Montanans are curable, according to Judy Nielsen of the DPHHS STD-HIV Prevention section, though prolonged and even permanent complications can occur if the diseases are left undiagnosed and untreated.
“I can’t emphasize enough that these particular STDs are all preventable,” Nielsen said in a prepared statement. “In addition, STD screening and early diagnoses are essential in preventing transmission and the long-term health consequences of STDs.”
Common complications can include infertility, and herpes or gonorrhea can increase a person’s chance of contracting HIV.
The only way to prevent STDs is not having sex, DPHHS said, though there are ways to lower the risk of getting them.
Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and does not have STDs.
Limiting the number of people you have sex with if you have more than one partner.
Using latex condoms every time you have sex.
Getting the vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can protect you against diseases (including cancers) caused by the human papillomavirus.
Talk with your health care provider about your sexual history so that he or she can provide you with the appropriate STD testing and prevention guidance. If you’re not comfortable talking with your regular health care provider, contact one of the clinics listed at the websites below about confidential and free or low-cost testing.
The Flathead City-County Health Department offers STD testing and treatment, including rapid HIV testing available at low or no cost. The family planning section of the clinic is available at 406-751-8150 or at www.flatheadhealth.org. Teens are welcome at the family planning clinic as well.
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