TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes sexually transmitted disease are at an all-time high.
In fact, the report found STDs have increased steadily over the last five years.
In most categories, Arizona ranks above the national average however, when it comes to syphilis cases, Arizona ranks fifth in the nation.
Arizona ranks third in the nation in congenital syphilis, which is passed from mother to child, resulting in 61 deaths.
“What jumped out to me, is that condom use is at a 10-year low on campus,” said Lee Ann Hamilton, assistant director of Health Promotion and Preventative Services at the University of Arizona Campus Health Services. “Students are reporting they are less likely to use condoms that they were 10 years ago.”
Using a condom is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of STDs, according to Hamilton.
The most common forms of sexually transmitted diseases are chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
Hamilton says a reason students don’t use them — besides the fact they don’t like to — is that pregnancy has become the biggest issue for sexually active students.
Condoms are no long a preferred method of preventing pregnancy because of advances in birth control.
“A primary concern right now is pregnancy,” said Uju Sampson, a UA senior from Phoenix. “Because of the highlighted awareness around pregnancy, I feel that STD awareness and STD risk have fallen to the wayside.”
She said it would be unusual for sexually active students to use both birth control and condoms.
Another issue, according the Hamilton, is a lack of testing.
“Anyone who is sexually active should be tested once a year,” she said. “If they have more than one, then every six months.”
The issue is that some diseases show no symptoms except for what appears to be an upset stomach that young people might pass off as something else.
However, left untreated, chlamydia can leave a woman with life-threatening pregnancies or unable to get pregnant altogether.
Still, another issue is the stigma associated with having an STD.
“Nobody wants to be perceived as a person who gets and STD,” said Nico Molina, a UA senior. “No one wants to be considered dirty.”
And that’s a common word used with sexually transmitted diseases.
“STDs are seen as dirty,” Sampson said. “If you have an STD, you’re a dirty person — you don’t take care of yourself.”
Molina says people who have an STD, can sometimes be ostracized.
“If someone has an STD, they will warn other people not to sleep with them,” he said.
But STDs don’t discriminate.
“If you’re going to have sex, anyone can get one,” she said.
The university hands out free condoms every Friday, has free screening and testing clinics and tries to help people open up and talk about diseases.
“We are still, in 2019, debating whether young people should have access to medically appropriate, scientifically proven, sex education that would keep them safer,” Hamilton said.