Clackamas County Public Health officials: STIs an ‘epidemic’ in Clackamas County

From: Scott Anderson, Clackamas County Public & Government Affairs, 503-655-8752

Media and Interested Parties

Clackamas County Public Health officials announced Thursday the rate of three sexually transmitted infections (STI) has skyrocketed in the last five years, and are declaring it an epidemic. 

According to the Public Health Impact report released today entitled, Public Health Impact: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis Rates are Skyrocketing in Clackamas County, from 2012-2016, chlamydia rates in the county increased 26 percent, while rates of gonorrhea increased 162 percent. From 2007 to 2016, syphilis rates in the county have increased a dramatic 1,334 percent. Officials also found that more than 25 percent of chlamydia cases occur among teens ages 15-19, while almost 70 percent of all chlamydia cases occur in women. 

Similar to other patterns of disease, there is not a single direct cause for the growing number of STIs or the disproportionate burden some populations face,” said Dr. Sarah Present, Clackamas County Health Officer. “Rather, it is a combination of the many social, cultural, and structural factors that influence sexual behavior, risk and transmission of STIs.”

The rise of STIs in Clackamas County mirrors national, statewide, and regional trends. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified approximately 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in the United States – the highest number ever recorded

While rates of STIs are increasing across all populations in Clackamas County, certain groups, such as young people (ages 15–24), women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals are disproportionately impacted by STIs. 

It’s important to note the sexual health of these communities is largely influenced by the social conditions that unjustly affect them. These conditions – called the social determinants of health – include factors such as income, education, housing, and access to health care. All affect sexual health outcomes.

“When people don’t have access to health care, we need to know why,” Dr. Present said.

If left untreated, STIs can cause serious reproductive and physical health problems. The good news is that bacterial STIs are frequently preventable and, at this point, treatable. Prevent and treatment options include: 

  • Use condoms consistently
  • Get tested regularly and request that your partners also get tested – every six months if you have multiple sexual partners
  • Take your full course of antibiotics if you test positive for an STI
  • Recommend that your sexual partners get tested and treated if you test positive for an STI

To combat rising STI rates, the county will work to educate and support people who test positive to seek medical treatment, expand case investigation, partner notification, and treatment services. The county also plans to develop a county-wide coalition that is grounded in health equity, unites community leaders and community-based organizations, and aligns efforts within and across the Clackamas County Health Equity Zones. This coalition will work to strengthen community prevention activities, including surveillance; enhanced screening; focused testing for populations engaging in high-risk behavior; and public education and engagement about safer sex practices. Public Health officials are urging the public, stakeholders and others to join the coalition.

For more information, read the full Public Health Impact report at http://bit.ly/ClackCoSTIreport or visit the Clackamas County Public Health Division’s website at www.clackamas.us/publichealth. For more information regarding STI prevention and treatment resources and services, individuals should contact their primary health care provider or visit the Clackamas County Public Health reproductive health webpage at www.clackamas.us/publichealth/reproductive.html.

For more information, members of the media and public may contact Clackamas County Public Health Division Director Dawn Emerick atdemerick@clackamas.us at 503-505-0214.