The Department of Health is noting an increase in some sexually transmitted diseases in Missouri, but a decrease in others.

Benjamin Laffoon is the HIV AIDS surveillance coordinator for the Department of Health. His department looks at AIDS, HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and Hepatitis B and C.

He says about one in four people in Missouri are infected with STDs, but in some areas that number might be closer to one in three. Laffoon says metro areas are cause for concern, particularly St. Louis City, St. Louis County and Jackson County.

Laffoon says the health department has seen chlamydia numbers rise while gonorrhea seems to be on the decline. Syphillis, he says, has plateaued, with numbers up about ten years ago, then going back down and levelling off.

"In the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of chlamydia diagnosed," he said. "Gonorrhea is a little bit different. In the last five years… the first couple of years we had increases, like from 2005 to 2007, then we started we started seeing decreases; through 2009 we’re seeing marked decreases."

He says his department is investigating why gonorrhea numbers are dropping. Laffoon says one theory is that a different class of antibiotics is being used to treat gonorrhea, which might be more effective than previous treatments.

Laffoon says different diseases are more prevalent in different areas, but that on the average, syphillis and HIV tend to be higher in men, especially men who engage in sexual activity with other men. He says gonorrhea is evenly spread between men and women. Chlamydia cases are seen more in women than men, and also affect a younger population of those ages 13 to 24. Syphillis and HIV impact an older age group more often, those between 18 and 30.

He says precise data is available through the Health Department for anyone who is interested in learning more.

Jessica Machetta reports [Download/listen MP3]
Jessica Machetta interviews Benjamin Laffoon with the Health Department