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Dating apps add to rise in STDs

Cases of sexually transmitted diseases continue to rise in Jackson County, with officials blaming dating apps, reduced condom use and methamphetamine for the growing numbers.

“This is not unique to Jackson County. This is happening state- and nation-wide,” Jackson County Health and Human Services Director Mark Orndoff recently told the county’s Budget Committee.

The county’s $339 million budget for the fiscal year that starts in July includes money for almost four more full-time workers to deal with the rise in communicable diseases. The positions are paid for through grants.

Mobile apps such as Tinder and Grindr allow people to meet up with others for sex. Many of the sexual encounters are anonymous, Orndoff said.

Meanwhile, as fear of AIDS has fallen, more people are having sexual intercourse without condoms, he said.

People with the human immunodeficiency virus who take anti-retroviral medicines are less likely to transmit HIV to their sexual partners. But that increased sense of security leads people to forgo condoms — leaving them exposed to other STDs, Orndoff said.

The use of methamphetamine and other stimulants also plays a role in STD transmission by ramping up sexual drive while lowering inhibitions, he said.

“People high on stimulants don’t make the best choices, and that’s true of sexual activity,” Orndoff said.

County statistics reveal the rising rates of STDs.

In 2012, there were 599 reported cases of chlamydia. The number of cases had grown to 755 in 2016, then spiked to 936 in 2017.

Reported gonorrhea cases jumped from 31 in 2012 to 177 in 2016. The upward trend continued in 2017, with 217 cases.

The county had only four reported cases of syphilis in 2012. But numbers increased to 23 in 2016 and 38 in 2017.

After seeing the growing numbers, the county launched a public awareness campaign in June 2017 with the slogan “Get Yourself Tested,” providing advice and information, including:

• People can schedule confidential testing with the county by calling 541-774-8209.

• The county can help infected people notify their sexual partners that they have been exposed to an STD.

• The county is urging people to seek treatment by telling them that most STDs are curable, and all are treatable.

The information is being presented in both Spanish and English, and includes photos of a heterosexual couple as well as a gay couple. Health officials say they believe the campaign has resulted in more people being tested.

STDs have reached record high levels in the United States, the county warns in its campaign.

To help prevent the spread of STDs and stay healthy, the county recommends:

• Practicing abstinence from vaginal, anal and oral sex

• Being in a mutually monogamous long-term relationship with an uninfected partner

• Using condoms with every episode of vaginal, anal and oral sex

• Having fewer sexual partners

• Talking with your partner about STDs and safer sexual practices before having sex

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.