STDs rise in Washoe as funding falls

Listen to the story

STDs rise in Washoe as funding falls


Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in Washoe County.

Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in Washoe County. Public health officials are asking providers to ramp up testing.

Reported cases of syphilis were up 100 percent between 2012 and 2013. That was similar to the previous year and fits with national trends. For gonorrhea, though, the increase was more sudden. Those cases went up by 56 percent as compared to 9 percent the year before.

Jennifer Howell, who's the sexual health coordinator for Washoe County, says they're not sure why the increase in gonorrhea.

"People are apathetic to condom use, and we've seen that in the literature and through information from our clients."

Other explanations include more online dating and the stigma of getting tested. Half of syphilis cases among men here are found in those who already have HIV. Overall, HIV rates are on the decline in Washoe County, but that means federal funding for HIV and other STD programs has been cut by 250,000 dollars over the last three years. The problem, Howell says, is they used that funding for other STD prevention programs.

"STD doesn't have a whole lot of prevention money tied with it, so we really leverage our resources with the HIV prevention message and that's decreasing."

As a result, Howell says they can only focus on testing for HIV and distributing condoms and not evidence-based programs that involve more outreach to vulnerable communities.

Information on testing can be found here.