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Sharp increase of sexually transmitted infections reported in La Plata County

Colorado health department issues alert
Using condoms correctly can help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections. (Durango Herald file)

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued an alert for La Plata County about an increase in HIV and syphilis cases during the past 12 months in comparison with previous years.

San Juan Basin Public Health on Tuesday encouraged residents in both Archuleta and La Plata counties to educate themselves and practice safe sexual health.

Combined in Archuleta and La Plata counties, cases of syphilis were four times higher in 2020 than in 2019, with the trend continuing to increase in 2021. The number of newly diagnosed HIV cases doubled from 2019 to 2020, with the trend continuing to increase in 2021. Cases of gonorrhea have been on the rise since 2017.

Syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are bacterial infections that can increase the risk of HIV acquisition and transmission. It is critical that people who are at high risk for sexually transmitted infections and HIV, particularly men who have sex with men, get tested every three months.

SJBPH encourages those who are sexually active to take advantage of SJBPH’s Sexual Health Clinic, which provides:

  • Confidential counseling and testing for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HPV (human papillomavirus), herpes and syphilis.
  • Treatment options for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
  • Vaccinations for HPV and hepatitis A and B.
  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for those at high risk of contracting HIV. PrEP is a medication taken to prevent transmission of HIV that can be prescribed to patients at risk. PrEP and free condoms are available at SJBPH, Planned Parenthood and Four Corners Infectious Disease.

“The power to protect your health is in your own hands, and SJBPH is here to help,” said Ashley Gonzalez, clinic manager at health department, in a news release. “Talk to your health care provider or SJBPH clinic staff members about what you can do, such as using protection and getting tested, to be as proactive as possible in safeguarding your sexual health.”

SJBPH urges the public to take these steps to take control of their sexual health:

  • Prepare to answer your health care provider’s questions about sex honestly, which helps your provider determine the best path for care.
  • Get tested – many sexually transmitted infections are curable, and all are treatable, including HIV.
  • Get treated – protect yourself from long-term, irreversible damage to your health by starting treatment immediately.
  • Know the benefits of expedited partner therapy – your provider may be able to give you medicine or a prescription for your partner, even without seeing them first.
  • Get retested – it’s common to get some sexually transmitted infections more than once, so getting retested in three months is important, even if you and your partner took medicine.
  • Communicate with your sexual partner and your health care provider.