Alarming STD outbreak among suburb's youth reflective of nationwide trend

Young adults in one particular Pennsylvania suburb are at an increased risk of contracting an STD. According to a state health department alert, STDs, including HIV, among 15-to-24-year-olds in Beaver County, a suburb of Pittsburgh, are alarmingly high.

“In calendar year (CY) 2017 and continuing into 2018 there has been a nearly threefold increase in the number of new diagnoses of HIV disease among Beaver County residents compared to the average number of new diagnoses in the previous five years,” the alert states.

But HIV isn’t the only STD on the rise in that area: “Beaver County saw a 33 percent increase in reported gonorrhea cases from 2016 to 2017, from 137 cases in 2016 to 182 cases in 2017,” the statement continues.

“This increase was predominantly in 15-24 year olds, and saw concurrent increases in HIV cases as well,” a representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Health tells Yahoo Lifestyle exclusively.

The state is trying to uncover why these STDs are affecting this particular area: “The Pennsylvania Department of Health is working with local officials and investigating the potential causes of the increase in STDs among 15-24 year olds in Beaver County,” Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General Rachel Levine, MD, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “At this time, this county is the only one in Pennsylvania seeing numbers of STD cases above what has typically being seen in the past.”

However, according to CBS Pittsburgh, the issue has spread to Allegheny County as well. “Our incidence rates for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV have and continue to exceed the state’s incidence rates,” Allegheny County Health Department Director Karen Hacker, MD, told the local news station.

STDs among 15-to-24-year-olds in a suburb of Pittsburgh are unusually high. (Photo: Getty Images)
STDs among 15-to-24-year-olds in a suburb of Pittsburgh are unusually high. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Pennsylvania DOH assured Yahoo Lifestyle that “an increase can happen anywhere, and it is difficult to pinpoint exact causes.”

Frank DiCenco at AHN’s Premier Women’s Health in Sewickley told CBS Pittsburgh it could be that the younger population is “more promiscuous today than probably ever before.”

Part of the problem is that nearly half of U.S. high school students have had sexual intercourse, and only half of those students report using a condom, based on a 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on youth risk behavior. This is unfortunate yet unsurprising, since a 2014 MAC AIDS Fund survey found that nearly nine in 10 American teens mistakenly believe they are not at risk of contracting HIV or AIDS in their lifetime.

The Pennsylvania DOH also said that “Pennsylvania has been seeing an increase in STDs much like the rest of the country. The increases Pennsylvania has seen in STD cases in recent years reflects increases nationally.” The CDC reported that in 2013, teens and young adults contracted almost half of the 20 million new cases of STDs.

According to an article published last week, at least 125 people — including a dozen high school kids — in Milwaukee have been infected with HIV, syphilis, or both in one of the biggest outbreaks ever reported in the city. A representative from Milwaukee Public Schools sent the following statement to Yahoo Lifestyle: “In December, the Milwaukee Health Department informed Milwaukee Public Schools that the entire city is experiencing an increase in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in 15-24-year-olds.”

This problem is nationwide, however: In 2016, STD rates in the U.S. were the highest ever reported, according to the CDC. The CDC estimates that there are more than 20 million new cases of STDs in the United States each year, and at least half occur in young people aged 15 to 24.

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