STD spike in San Francisco may reflect testing hike 

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Reports of sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in San Francisco, yet health officials are not alarmed by certain dramatic increases. They say it could simply be due to more people being tested.

The City’s monthly STD report, released in December, showed cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are on the rise. All three, though, can be treated.

The largest increase of the three was in rectal gonorrhea for gay men and men who have sex with men, going from 479 cases in 2010 to 622 in 2011, a 29.8 percent rise.

Reports of overall gonorrhea cases increased 15.4 percent last year, from 1,943 to 2,243. Chlamydia cases increased 3 percent, with 4,603 reported in 2010 and 4,741 in 2011, according to the STD report.

Kyle Bernstein of the Department of Public Health said there is no known reason for the increases, but the frequency of screenings could be a factor.

“Many people are asymptomatic” Bernstein said. “So the more screening you do, the more you will find.”

Bernstein noted that the report is based on preliminary data and it will be finalized in the spring.

Chlamydia cases have increased the most in young women, Bernstein said. More detailed numbers were not available.

The number of cases of chlamydia in gay men and men having sex with men increased 4.9 percent, from 914 in 2010 to 959 in 2011.

Bernstein recommends men get tested for chlamydia every three to six months, while women should be tested annually.

Tara Medve, a spokeswoman for the Women’s Community Clinic in Lower Pacific Heights, said the clinic tests for STDs daily, but has not noticed an increase in cases.

Roughly 2 percent of the clinic’s 200 chlamydia tests performed monthly come back positive, Medve said.

“It has remained pretty flat,” she said.

After years of decline, cases of early syphilis continue to increase slightly.

At the height of the last syphilis rise in 2004, San Francisco had 552 reported cases. In 2011, that number had climbed to 682, a 3.5 percent increase over 2010 numbers.

But Bernstein said the increase isn’t alarming.

“It’s likely an endemic disease at this point,” Bernstein said. “The number of cases are not going to be zero. What we can hope for is a turn of the tide for the numbers to start going down as opposed to increasing.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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