Sexually transmitted infections on the rise in central Virginia
Infections from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise. Over the last year, the Thomas Jefferson Health District (TJHD) has seen a drastic increase in the number of combined infections from syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
In 2018, doctors diagnosed close to 57,000 new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Virginia, compared to 55,000 cases in 2017.
TJHD says they've actually seen an increase in STIs for five years in a row. Health officials believe this increase could be due to increased drug use, a lack of condom use, and a decrease in funding for public health. They also add people are getting tested more frequently.
"A lot of public health services have been cut, and so there are fewer testing clinics across the state, and so there aren't opportunities for people to test unless they are symptomatic. So when it's not free, when it’s not easy to go test, people don't test until they know they have a problem. And since most STDs are not symptomatic, most people just don’t know they have them," said Clare Ruday, senior public health nurse.
In order to make sure people have the opportunity to get tested, the health district recently started offering a free testing clinic the first and third Wednesdays of every month at the Charlottesville Health Department.
Last year, the Thomas Jefferson Health District gave out more than 100,000 free condoms to help lower the number of STIs. Free condoms are available every day to anyone who drops by TJHD. If you don't feel comfortable saying you are there to pick up condoms, you can say you would like a "brown paper bag."
The health district also offers traditional clinics Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which are offered on a sliding scale to make them affordable for anyone.
Officials want to remind you that you shouldn't be embarrassed to go get tested because your sexual health is really just part of your health.
All three STIs can be easily treated with an antibiotic.