ANCHORAGE -

Since the beginning of the year, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has noticed a disturbing spike in the number of people contracting sexually transmitted diseases -- in particular, HIV and syphilis.

While the numbers are preliminary, they're still a concern. In the first four months of 2014, state officials have seen about 20 new cases each of HIV and syphilis -- versus 24 HIV cases and 30 syphilis cases in all of 2013.

State officials say the majority of those infected are men, with data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention putting Alaska in an unenviable spot.

"We've had an uptick in HIV cases since January and we have an ongoing syphilis outbreak," said Susan Jones, DHSS's HIV/STD program manager. "We have an ongoing gonorrhea outbreak, and according to CDC in 2013 Alaska will rank first in the nation for chlamydia rates."

While the numbers are small, state officials say the risk is high.

"There's been an increase from actually 2012 to 2013," Jones said. "A 63 percent increase in the syphilis cases and what's concerning to us, those high numbers are continuing to go on.

Davy Norris, with the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association or Four A's, says ending the spread of STDs begins with better intimate decisions.

"To prevent that uptick, the best thing to do is for everyone to make an informed choice on whom they're choosing to be their sexual partner," Norris said. "Just know that (you're) putting themselves at risk for virus or disease every time you decide to engage in sexual activity with anyone."