Myrtle Beach ranks among top 100 cities with highest STD rates in the US, study shows

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Myrtle Beach ranks as the 92nd city in the country with the most sexually transmitted disease cases, according to a new study.

Based on the data, Myrtle Beach counted 814 STD cases per every 100,000 residents. The breakdown of these numbers includes four types of disease: HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. 

  • HIV — 70 cases
  • Syphilis — 26 cases
  • Chlamydia — 1,832 cases
  • Gonorrhea — 944 cases
  • Total STD — 2,802 cases
Source: Innerbody Medical and Wellness Testing Guide

Several other cities in the Carolinas made the list, including Charleston and Greenville. Columbia, SC, and Fayetteville, NC, both made the list among the top 20.

News13 interviewed Disease Intervention and Partner Service Program Manager with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Bernard Gilliard, about contributing factors and severe risks. 

Myrtle Beach STD rates consecutively rising 

Recent data show the number of people with opioid and drug addictions in Horry County is increasing at a similar rate to those being diagnosed with STDs.

“We see an increased risk in people who have sex when they are intoxicated or when there is a need to barter or acquire something else. We see in certain areas of the state, Myrtle Beach and other areas, opioids, meth, and cocaine in some areas are opportunities where people who have an addiction, trade sex to feed the addiction,” Gilliard said.

Factors contributing to increasing rates

According to South Carolina DHEC experts, there are multiple factors that may be contributing to increasing rates. One that many might not realize, especially for gonorrhea and chlamydia, is the recent sensitivity of testing.

Additional testing methods have increased the numbers of positive tests.

Five years ago, testing was urine-based or culture-based from the reproductive track itself. Now, there is the ability to do testing from the throat, as well as testing from the rectum.

“The sensitivity has increased such that specimens that previously might have been called negative, false negatives because they were positives, they would be called positive cases now because of the sensitivity of testing that involves gonorrhea and chlamydia,” Gilliard said. 

Gender trends in state and county STD numbers

Gender trends regarding different diagnoses, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, are highly concentrated in the female population in the number of cases, according to DHEC exports. 

“Part of that is because a lot more women have annual testing,” Gilliard said.  “More women seem to access to healthcare with medical services.” 

Syphilis and HIV are infections that DHEC actively does surveillance on. If a patient tests positive for syphilis or HIV, a public health worker would then be responsible for initiating contact with a provider and follow up to investigate the case. 

New Nationwide Statistics show steady increase

For the fifth consecutive year, statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show STD rates increasing. The total cases of STDs in 2018 are 2,457,118. 

Syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia reached all-time high numbers in the United States in 2018, the most recent year on the list, according to the annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report from CDC

Here is a breakdown of those numbers: 

  • Chlamydia- 1.8 million cases (19% increase size 2014) 
  • Gonorrhea-583,405 cases (63% increase since 2014) 
  • Syphilis- 35,063 cases (71% increase since 2014) 

Severe health consequences result from STDs. Newborn deaths related to congenital syphilis increased 22 percent from 2017 to 2018 (from 77 to 94 deaths).

“With gonorrhea and chlamydia, particularly in younger patients, it reduces their ability to have children. We have also seen vision issues with syphilis. People who have been infected for about a year tend to lose vision or have had permanent vision loss of some percent,” Gilliard said.

Increases in the 3 most commonly reported

More than 115,000 primary and secondary syphilis cases were reported. The number of primary and secondary syphilis cases, the most infectious stages of syphilis, increased 14% to more than 35,000 cases, the highest number reported since 1991. 

Among newborns, syphilis cases increased 40 percent to more than 1,300 cases. Gonorrhea increased 5 percent to more than 580,000 cases – also the highest number reported since 1991. Chlamydia increased 3 percent to more than 1.7 million cases, a record high number.

How to get tested in Myrtle Beach 

DHEC provides free STD screening for South Carolinians throughout the year, including in February for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, in April for National STD Awareness Month, and in June for National HIV Testing Day.  DHEC has two locations in Horry County that conduct testing: 700 21st Ave N Myrtle Beach, SC 29577 and 1931 Industrial Park Rd Conway, SC 29526.

To find an HIV, STD, or Hepatitis testing location near you, click here.

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