State experiencing high STI/STD rates

Courtesy photo

Louisiana consistently experiences some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States.

Syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are the three most commonly reported STDs/STIs.

In 2016, Louisiana had the highest primary and secondary syphilis diagnosis rate, the second highest for gonorrhea diagnosis rate, and the second highest chlamydia diagnosis rate according to the CDC’s 2016 STD Surveillance Report.

Additionally, according to 2016 article, “ULM nationally ranks high in STD rates” by Kandice Johnson, University of Louisiana Monroe is the third least sexually healthy college in the United States.

It was the only college in Louisiana to be ranked in a study by the State of Education and Center for Disease Control. In a 2017 article concerning Louisiana ranking third in the United States with the highest STD rates, Dr. B.J. Foch, medical director for the region 5 Office of Public Health in Lake Charles said the main issue is poverty.

About 37 percent of Louisiana’s population lives in poverty.

“Especially in rural parishes, residents are at an increased risk for developing STDs. There’s a health professional shortage and many residents don’t have access to care,” Dr. Foch said.  Colleges tend to be a constant breeding ground for infections and diseases considering the overall lack of sexual health awareness. Students are encouraged to take advantage of their nearest health clinic to avoid STDs.

Patrice Outley, director of Student Health Services at Grambling State University, urges students to take advantage of the campus facilities.

“The Foster Johnson Health Clinic currently offers a variety of services to help students grow and protect their sexual health,” Outley said. “Those services include prophylaxis in the form of free condoms; routine testing for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) that include testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV; We also provide sexual health and STI prevention education in partnership with campus and local partners.”

Outley said STI testing and counseling is available weekly Monday through Wednesday.

Outley adds that the best sources of data regarding college campuses and regional comparisons of STI rates can be found by the state’s Department of Health publications. 

“Education on accurate information is the key,” Outley said.

“While students can educate themselves, we encourage them to take advantage of our health counselors and partner with us to host events to educate on STI prevention. We’ve recently partnered with the Omegas and Iotas on programming designed to educate on STIs. We have also collaborated with external partners like the Louisiana Office of Public Health and Go Care to educate and test hundreds of students. The more we can do this, the more we can help keep our students healthy.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorreclty identified the rates of HIV infection in Shreveport and Monroe.