Are STDs on the rise in Troup County?
Published 9:30 am Saturday, April 8, 2023
According to a recent study by 2023 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a program of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Troup County ranked higher than the state average in sexually transmitted infections (STI).
As reported in the rankings, in Troup County there have been 738 new cases of chlamydia diagnosed per 100,000 people in 2020. Although that number actually improved in the 2023 study compared to 2020, 2021 or 2022, it’s still much larger than it was five years ago, when Troup County had 541 cases per 100,000 people. In the study, Troup is now well above the state of Georgia average of 589.
The study notes that increased cases could just be due to more prevalence of the disease, but other factors, such as expanded screening, better diagnostic tests, or improved reporting could also cause numbers to increase.
In a 2022 report, the Center for Disease Control said many of the states that rank highly in STD cases are in the South.
“Taking care of your sexual health and wellness is just as important as keeping the rest of your body and mind healthy, but that’s a lot easier said than done,” said Natalie Shelton, public information officer and risk communicator for District 4 Public Health.
“There’s a lot that can hold someone back from seeking out sexual health services, including the cost, concerns about confidentiality and the fear of the unknown.”
She said it’s easy for people to assume everything is fine if they haven’t been experiencing symptoms of a potential health issue.
“Not immediately seeing symptoms can make someone delay getting tested and treated for an STI, which can make it harder to treat at a later stage and also increase the chance of transmitting the disease to others,” Shelton said. “In Georgia, for instance, one in five individuals with HIV don’t know they’re HIV positive. The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your status is important because it helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV.”
Tiffany Marshall, registered nurse and STD coordinator for District 4 Public Health, said the STIs seen the most in Troup County have been syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
She also said STIs have been the most prevalent in ages 15-24 among African American men and women.
Tito Terry, HIV coordinator, said D4PH has several programs and initiatives promoting sexual wellness and STI prevention/education. Terry said HIV has been prevalent in same-sex attracted males (AA, LatinX and Caucasian) and women.
“We offer free HIV testing at all health departments, free STI testing, free condoms, HIV prevention programs that engage in outreach and HIV rapid testing and education, communicable disease support case management for all STIs and so much more,” Terry said.
Should an individual contract an STI, Terry said the individual should seek out STI testing/screenings, seek out their testing results, seek treatment for the STI and make sure all partners are aware of the infection.
“It’s important to educate yourself on safe sexual practices moving forward so you do not continue to contract them in the future,” he said.
At D4PH, all services for STI and HIV treatments are on an income-based/sliding scale with no insurance, while those with insurance would have tests charged to their insurance provider, Terry said. HIV testing is free, and STI testing ranges between $27 and $157.
Terry said the greatest benefit of having programs and services for sexual health accessible to the community is that it keeps people safe.
“Having resources in the community also allows people to take control of their health while providing them with the tools to make informed decisions on their own, while simultaneously, enabling the use of treatment as prevention (TaaP) principles to prevent the spread of HIV and sexually transmitted infections in the community,” Terry said.
To help promote the importance of sexual wellness in different age groups, Marshall said D4PH has created various outreach opportunities for community health education and prevention of both HIV and STIs.
She said the organization works with local partners such as LaGrange College, Hyundia-Transys, KIA, LaGrange and West Point Housing Authority, Crossroads Treatment Center and Mercer School of Medicine Health Equity Navigator Program to promote sexual wellness at different levels.
On social media, D4PH uses different platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote free health educational literature on HIV and STIs available at the health department and other outreach events.
“We hope people will see their local health department as a place that can help them navigate the unknowns and fear they may be experiencing when it comes to their sexual health and wellness,” Shelton said.
“Through the health department’s screening and prevention program, they can receive confidential testing, treatment, free condoms and referrals to other resources and providers.”