STD Trends: Gonorrhea, Chlamydia numbers up in Iowa and nationally

Syphilis down 1.7% in Iowa

FILE PHOTO: Research specialist Nicole Quinn of Johns Hopkins Medicine tests samples for sexually transmitted diseases i
FILE PHOTO: Research specialist Nicole Quinn of Johns Hopkins Medicine tests samples for sexually transmitted diseases in a February 15, 2011, file image. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

For the most part, sexually transmitted disease diagnoses in Iowa continue to increase similar to national trends, according to 2018 data from the state Department of Public Health.

The one exception is the 283 cases of syphilis (1.7 percent decrease) were reported to IDPH in 2018, which was a decrease of 1.7 percent compared to the previous year. Otherwise, IDPH officials reported that preliminary data show 14,695 cases of chlamydia (5.8 percent increase from 2017) and 4,839 cases of gonorrhea (28.3 percent increase). Increases in diagnoses of gonorrhea and chlamydia have been reported nationally as well but state health officials said it was unclear if the higher numbers were due to increased access to testing, increased transmission or both.

In February, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported increases in the use of injection drugs, methamphetamine and heroin among people who have recently acquired syphilis and state officials said their data indicate a similar trend in Iowa. The number of individuals diagnosed with these early stages of syphilis who reported having used methamphetamine more than doubled from 2016 to 2018, which state health officials said suggested a connection between drug addiction and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

In addition to use of condoms, IDPH officials recommend regular testing for the prevention and control of STDs. Many STDs cause no symptoms or symptoms that are easily confused with other conditions. Without testing, individuals may remain undiagnosed, untreated and unaware that they are transmitting the infection to others. Early treatment prevents serious, long-term health consequences that otherwise may result from these infections.

For more information about IDPH’s STD program, including resources and statistics, visit and locations can be found at

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