CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in South Carolina, and an official with Conway Medical Center said the state’s rates are alarming.
The CDC has South Carolina ranked No. 4 nationally for the highest STD rates.
“These are scary numbers, to be honest with you,” said Paul Richardson, the chief medical officer at Conway Medical Center.
The total STD rate in South Carolina is 1,052 per 100,000 people as of May.
In a report provided by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, three major areas that play a factor in the data the CDC collects — chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
From 2012 to 2022, DHEC reported an increase of more than 17,000 cases.
Richardson said the STD rates are alarming, but that there’s another factor that causes concern.
“It’s equally as alarming is the fact that some of these organisms have become resistant to some of our mainstay treatments,” he said. “So, that’s also very concerning as well.”
A program manager for Partner Services and Disease Intervention with SCDHEC, Bernard Gilliard, said many states take part in expedited partner therapy.
“This practice of giving medicine to an index person to give to their partners is now permissible and legal in South Carolina,” Gillard said.
Although it’s legal, Gilliard said not many professionals use it, as it isn’t an accurate representation of STD cases.
“You know, if a person comes in, that’s one positive case. If two people off of them are positive, they’re just given medication to give them and they’re never tested. That’s a shortage of two kind of cases that aren’t being counted and reported,” he said. “So, their rates aren’t as true or accurate as ours.”
Just last year, DHEC reported a total of more than 52,000 cases — with the majority being adolescents and adults under the age of 30.
Infections can lead to serious long-term issues like infertility, cervical cancer and long-term scarring.
“Not having symptoms isn’t necessarily an indication that you don’t have an STI because some of the STI’s are less symptomatic, especially with females,” Gilliard said. “You know, so, you could go undetected if you’re looking for symptoms. Routine screening is needed to validate or check that box that you’re STI-free.”
DHEC said to follow three simple steps to prevent the spread of STDs — talk, test and treat. DHEC also provides a list of public health clinics where testing is offered.
For a list of those places, click here.
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Gracie is a multimedia journalist at News 13 and is from Cleveland, Ohio. Gracie joined the team in June 2023 after graduating from the University of Alabama in May. Follow Gracie on Facebook, Instagram and X, formerly Twitter, & read more of her work here.