2YH: Alaska continues to rank in the top on certain STDs

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - You often hear how states are ranked when it comes to different topics. Things like the best place to retire or the best place to buy or sell a house, but some of those rankings aren't in the state's favor and when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, Alaska falls in that category.

Poster provided by the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Division of Public Health Section of Epidemiology.

For the last 18 years, Alaska has ranked first or second for the highest rates of chlamydia in the nation. Eighty-five percent of the people that have it, won't show signs or symptoms. Gonorrhea was ranked low until a few years ago and Alaska is experiencing the worst syphilis outbreak in 40 years.

"Even though we're having an outbreak of syphilis the number of cases that we had last year of infectious syphilis was around 100. Normally we have 20 cases a year," said HIV/STD Program Manager for the State of Alaska, Susan Jones.

"When I was in high school, I didn't hear much about STDs or the rate that you know Alaska ranks so high, that's pretty alarming," said Briar Thurmond, a student.

These diseases are treatable, but people need to know if they have it in the first place. Plus, there's also the risk of reinfection. It's not an easy conversation to have with a partner, but it's a necessary one.

"If you have a partner that's a regular partner, but you have other partners, you need to talk to each other about protecting yourself," said Jones.

She added that having "the talk" should be as casual as a dinner conversation.

"Parents need to talk to their teens because kids that are between 15 and young adults to 24 have the highest incidents of gonorrhea and chlamydia," Jones said.

Regardless of the stigma, taboos or awkwardness around the topic, it's one that isn't going away anytime soon.

Jones said talking to your healthcare provider is key and making sure you get all areas tested. There's also health aides in the villages for those in more rural places in the state.

Email health topics you'd like to see covered at 2yh@ktuu.com.

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