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Provo takes last place on list of cities with high rates of STDs

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Daily Herald | Feb 17, 2024

Nick Ut, Associated Press

This April 1, 2016, file photos shows a billboard above a gas station that reads "Feel The Burn," a play on then-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' campaign slogan, "Feel The Bern." It's actually promoting testing for sexually transmitted diseases. The number of cases of STDs — chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — in California reached a record high in 2017, and officials are particularly concerned by a spike in stillbirths due to congenital syphilis, state health authorities said Monday, May 14, 2018.

A new study on sexually transmitted disease rates listed the top 100 cities most affected in the United States. Provo came in at No. 100, a slight bit better than in the previous report where it ranked 99th in the nation.

The seventh annual study is based on the latest data from 2022 published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Innerbody Research, based in California, analyzed statistics on a city-by-city basis and came up with the top 100 towns with the highest STD rates. The organization includes a group of researchers, scientists and medical professionals.

According to a press release from Innerbody Research, new cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia rates have continued to skyrocket. Since 2001, overall syphilis cases have increased 781% while congenital cases rose by 464%, according to the report. In 2022, there were 3,755 babies born with congenital syphilis.

The latest figures from 2022 show Provo had 21 cases of syphilis, 347 gonorrhea, 1,599 chlamydia and 24 HIV cases.

“We never like to speculate on the why,” said Utah County Health Department Public Information Officer Aislynn Tolman-Hill. “But we do believe there are some contributing factors contributing to our uptick in rates.”

Tolman-Hill said Utah County has a hub of universities where a lot of young people are moving in and out of counties in the area.

“We are definitely not calling out BYU,” she said. “We have a lot of universities here with a lot of movement between counties and people traveling back and forth all the time.”

Tolman-Hill said beyond that, there are also higher risk populations of people who may include those who don’t have access to health care or insurance, the homeless population and even people who are embarrassed to seek out help.

“We are continuing to do our public health duties to try and combat this issue,” she said. “One thing we do is we make sure everyone who comes in our clinic is treated with respect and professionalism and we are very strict about confidentiality. This is a very hard topic for a lot of folks to talk about, even over the phone, but it’s an important conversation to have because they need to have testing and treatment, and we provide a very trusting environment with our clients.”

Tolman-Hill also said the health department offers free HIV testing in June and December, and when the person does have to pay a fee, it’s at a reasonable cost.

“It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, we highly encourage anyone to contact us in person or over the phone for a consultation, diagnosis and treatment,” she said.

In adults, syphilis symptoms include sores around the mouth or genitals. As it progresses, a person can develop rashes on the body and flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, sore throat and fatigue.

Gonorrhea symptoms include painful urination and abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina. Men also can experience testicular pain and women can have pain in the lower abdomen.

Chlamydia symptoms can include genital pain and discharge. However, some people who have chlamydia and gonorrhea may not have any symptoms at all.

People with HIV can develop initial flu-like symptoms two to four weeks after contracting the virus.

Tolman-Hill said priorities to prevent these serious diseases include screening, testing, and education and public awareness.

“We have a walk-in clinic at our Provo Health Department, we have access to phone interviews, one-on-one interviews, free HIV clinics twice a year and will answer any questions you have,” she said. “This is really a better-safe-than-sorry situation, so please don’t feel embarrassed or hesitant to reach out to us.”

The study also ranked Salt Lake City at No. 65 on the top 100 list.

Email requests for interviews with Innerbody Research were not immediately returned.


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