The state’s Department of Health is reporting an increase in sexually transmitted diseases in Alaska. In 2013, gonorrhea and syphilis infections were up more than 50 percent from 2012. Alaska was ranked first in the nation for chlamydia infections in 2013. And in just the first five months of this year, 23 new cases of HIV have been diagnosed and reported. That’s one less than last year’s total.
Susan Jones with the state’s Section of Epidemiology says it’s hard to know exactly why more cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia are being reported. With thousands of people testing positive, they can’t ask everyone about their sexual behaviors.
“Could it be that individuals are seeking service and getting detected earlier? That could be part of it,” Jones says. “Could it be that providers are aware that they should screen for gonorrhea and they are doing more screening? That could be part of it.”
But Jones says they do ask people who test positive for syphilis and HIV about their risk factors. She says some of the increase is due to people meeting their sexual partners online or through phone apps.
“If you’re a person practicing these high risk behaviors, of having sex with people that you don’t know, be careful.”
Jones says one of the key ways to stop the spread of STDs is for infected people to inform their partners and help them get treated. She says the state can help track them down.
“You know back in the day, it used to be phone calls and knocking on the door. Today it’s phone apps and social media.”
The state offers free treatment for people who are infected, though funding for that program runs out at the end of this month.