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Wrap more than just a gift for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day: Sexually transmitted infections on the rise in Sangamon County

Wrap more than just a gift for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day: Sexually transmitted infections on the rise in Sangamon County

This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget the basics in lovemaking with your partner: no glove, no love.

That’s especially important in Sangamon County, where reported STIs have increased the last four years. According to data obtained from the Illinois Department of Public Health, in 2011 the county reported 1,220 cases of chlamydia, 500 cases of gonorrhea and nine cases of early syphilis. On the other hand, there were only six secondary syphilis cases. In 2007, there were 1,078 reported counts of chlamydia, 650 of gonorrhea, four of early syphilis and six of secondary syphilis.

Cook County is a drastic contrast; in 2011 cases reported totaled 36,845 for chlamydia, 10, 884 for gonorrhea, 1,252 for early syphilis and 773 for secondary syphilis. In 2007, the reported cases were 30,881 for chlamydia, 12,338 for gonorrhea, 576 for early syphilis and 393 for secondary syphilis, respectively.

Spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health Melaney Arnold said chlamydia and early syphilis are increasing over time. “We also saw a decline in gonorrhea over four years, and then an increase in 2011,” she said. “Gonorrhea is starting to develop resistance to the last class of antibiotics used to treat gonorrhea and there is concern about the possible increase in gonorrhea over the next few years.”

One may look at the numbers are wonder why they have seen such an increase. Aren’t people given the right information to make smarter choices? Some UIS students say that may not be the case, especially when it comes to the younger crowd.

Matthew Case is a master’s student in public administration. He said there’s a lot of education which young people lack on STIs. “You don’t see awareness or presence of individuals on campus who are educating people so you don’t really hear about,” he said. “They’re not sure where to go or what to do when those scares arise.”

Case added that having a confidential outlet would help youth immensely. “It would have been good to have somebody professionally who I could reach out to and talk to them on an anonymous basis.”

Megan Bott is a junior sociology and anthropology double major.  She says media plays a vital role in public information surrounding STIs. “I feel like with all the shows such as Teen Mom, it (unwanted pregnancy) is in our public consciousness versus STIs,” she said.

Bott added she herself didn’t receive much information growing up about sexual health. “I remember in elementary school, we talked about growing up and puberty. That was the only formal education about sexual health I got in middle school,” she said. “It might be a little late for educating adolescents about the body and having safe sex.”

Olivia Sykes is a junior legal studies and political science major. She has noticed the lack of education in her own childhood. “A lot of people have sex and keep it secret and lots of schools do not talk about STIs – just about different body parts and puberty and not about the different types of diseases,” Sykes said.

Sykes did take middle school and high school health education classes and that they might have proved effective for some kids. “I’ll never forget they showed us slides of different STIs and what they looked like – herpes, crabs,” she said. “That deterred me from having sex for a very long time.”

Case added some schools who receive sexual health information are getting the right results but there’s more work still to do. “Kids are pretty well-informed in high school and middle-schools about STIs and about sexual health issues but I definitely think that there should be more of an effort in college to try to drive home that education.”

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