STD rates among Utah’s youth on the rise

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health has released some startling statistics showing an increase in sexually transmitted diseases among Utahns.

The data shows that one out of every four Utah teens had chlamydia at some point during 2012.

Lynn Beltran, STD epidemiology supervisor, said chlamydia is the big problem in the area.

“As far as STD numbers go here in Salt Lake County, our biggest concern is with chlamydia,” she said.

Lynn Minor, manager of the communicable disease prevention program, said chlamydia isn’t the only STD that’s been on the rise lately.

“We’ve had a 71 percent increase in gonorrhea, and our syphilis rates almost doubled,” Minor said.

Beltran said nearly half of these STD cases involve Utah’s youth.

“Over 40 to 50 percent of our cases are in the younger community,” she said. “In fact, if you look at the age groups from 15 to 24 in some areas they comprise 70 percent of all chlamydia infections.”

Most of the STD cases the Utah Department of Health has seen are treatable, but not all people can be treated.

Minor said: “Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are all treatable sexually transmitted infections, we have antibiotics that treat them very effectively, but we are starting to see, on east and west coast, cases of gonorrhea resistance.”

Health officials said the increase in numbers may be due to an increased awareness of STDs, which means more people get tested.

Kirk Benge, Utah Public Health Lab, said requests for tests have increased consistently.

“Five years ago we probably had 25,000 requests for chlamydia and gonorrhea testing, and that’s gone up every single year for the last five years,” he said.

Beltran said one of the problems is a lack of information regarding sexual health.

“We’re very limited here in Utah because of legislation on what can be taught in the school systems, and whether you agree with that or disagree with that is not the issue, it’s not happening for our young communities,” she said. “They’re misinformed; they’re teaching each other inaccurate information that is leading to increased STD rates and unplanned pregnancies.”

Beltran said it’s important for parents to have frank, informative talks with their kids about sex.

“I can’t say this to parents enough: to please engage in this conversation with your children, with your adolescents, with your teenagers,” she said. “Even if they act like they don’t wanna have these discussions with you, all the research shows that they want to get that guidance from their parents.”

The Utah Department of Health offers STD tests for those who are sexually active.

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