Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are the contemporary trade terms for what was once called “Venereal Diseases.”
For the purposes of this pithy lead, the last term, or “V.D.” as it was colloquially known, is the preferred term for no reason other than its initials are shared by Valentine’s Day, and an alt-weekly is nothing if not cheekily, if not tastelessly, ironic.
But wait, there’s more—a lot more, at least when it comes to STIs, according to Innerbody Research, an organization of researchers, scientists and medical professionals whose stated mission is “To provide objective, science-based information and advice that helps you make health-related decisions and enjoy a healthier, happier lifestyle.”
However, if one lives in Sonoma, Marin or Napa counties, their healthy, happy lifestyle may require some medical attention.
According to Innerbody Research, which just published the results of its 7th annual study ranking the Top 100 U.S. cities with the highest STD rates based on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) most recent STD data (collected and analyzed over the past two years), cases in local counties are on the rise.
Sonoma County reported 1,614 chlamydia cases, 609 gonorrhea cases, 69 syphilis cases and 29 HIV cases.
Marin County reported 598 chlamydia cases, 212 gonorrhea cases, 21 syphilis cases, and 13 HIV cases. And Napa County reported 486 chlamydia cases, 189 gonorrhea cases, 28 syphilis cases and 10 HIV cases.
Can we conclude that the infection rates are increasing in Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties?
“Yes, overall, rates of infection are going up in Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties,” says Eric Rodriguez, Innerbody’s in-house managing editor. He added that, on a brighter note, gonorrhea cases declined slightly in Sonoma County last year, according to the Center for Disease Control data.
Nearby, in San Francisco, the city ranked number 8 in the top 100 U.S. cities with the highest STD rates based on the CDC’s most recent data.
There are numerous likely contributing factors to the rise of infections, but the CDC and our researchers conclude that the main factors include:
- Decreased Condom Use: Reduced condom use or inconsistent use can increase the risk of STD transmission, especially among sexually active individuals.
- Stigma and Fear of Testing: The stigma associated with STDs and the fear of getting tested can deter individuals from seeking timely healthcare and treatment.
- Public Health Infrastructure: The effectiveness of public health programs, including STD prevention and control efforts, can impact the rates of STDs in a region.
- Dating Apps and Hookup Culture: The rise of dating apps and hookup culture may facilitate casual sexual encounters, increasing the potential for STD transmission.
The new data is some of the first from the CDC following the pandemic lockdown. One might infer that everyone was just going stir crazy and having unprotected sex, but Rodriguez says it was otherwise.
“During the lockdown, riskier sexual behavior decreased dramatically,” explains Rodriguez. “The latest data does not necessarily indicate that everyone was going crazy and having unprotected sex post-lockdown, but rather riskier sexual behavior picked back up sharply.”
So, what should sexually active people do to protect themselves?
“Beyond the usual protocols like using a condom, the number one action individuals can take to protect themselves and their partners is to get tested,” advises Rodriguez, who says many STDs do not show symptoms in the early stages or are mild enough that they are easily overlooked.
“Regular testing helps in detecting an infection early, which can lead to more effective treatment,” reminds Rodrigues. “Furthermore, untreated STDs can lead to serious health complications. For instance, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infertility in both men and women, and untreated syphilis can lead to damage to the brain, nerves and heart.”
Lastly, knowing one’s STD status helps in preventing the spread of the disease to sexual partners. Many STDs can be transmitted even when symptoms are not present.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
To view Innerbody’s complete study, visit innerbody.com/std-testing/std-statistics.