PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The rate of sexually transmitted infections (STI) diagnosed in Rhode Island has increased significantly over the past decade, according to the R.I. Department of Health.
The Health Department released its annual STI surveillance report back in February, which indicates that the number of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis cases have spiked in recent years.
The report indicates that, between 2012 and 2021, Rhode Island saw a 382% increase in infectious syphilis cases. The state also recorded a 232% increase in gonorrhea cases and a 21% uptick in chlamydia infections during that same time frame.
In the last two years alone, Rhode Island recorded its first reports of congenital syphilis in more than a decade. Nationwide, the number of congenital syphilis cases surged by 203% between 2017 and 2021.
“While there is no one reason why rates of STIs are increasing, some factors may include sexual activity with larger networks of partners, substance abuse and social and economic disparities that limit access to healthcare,” R.I. Department of Health Director Utpala Bandy said. “In addition, biomedical interventions to prevent HIV and pregnancy may create the incorrect perception that condoms are not needed as much as they were in the past.”
These trends aren’t unique to Rhode Island.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its annual surveillance report earlier this week, which found that nearly 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in 2021 alone.
While easily treatable, STIs can cause serious health complications if left unchecked. Those complications can include infertility, cervical cancer, ectopic pregnancy and pelvic inflammatory disease.
The best way to prevent STIs, according to the Health Department, is to use condoms consistently and correctly. It’s also important to get tested periodically for STIs to ensure early diagnosis and treatment.
The state offers free condoms-by-mail and TESTING 1-2-3, which allows healthy Rhode Islanders to get screened for STIs without a trip to the doctor’s office. The Health Department’s RIghtTime sexual health app also provides additional information on STI prevention, testing and treatment options.