Cases of sexually transmitted diseases climb in South Dakota; social media might be a cause

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SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — New statistics from South Dakota's Health Department show a steady and in some cases dramatic rise in sexually transmitted diseases in recent years.

Cases of gonorrhea have more than doubled since 2009, to 847, while syphilis cases have gone from none in 2011 to 79 last year.

"Now we've got one of the highest syphilis rates in the country," State Epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger told the Argus Leader newspaper ( ).

The increase in STDs in the last few years might be tied to social media and the Internet, which have made it easier for people to find anonymous, risky sex partners, Kightlinger said.

During the HIV and AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, sexual behavior changed dramatically and there were rapid decreases across the board in STDs. But while HIV rates have plateaued, other STDs are increasing, according to Wendell Hoffman, an infectious disease expert at Sanford Health.

"You saw dramatic change in behavior. However, over time, those behavioral changes were not sustained," he said.

The Sioux Falls region now has cases of drug-resistant gonorrhea, according to Hoffman.

"We are reaching a time in the world when we may not have any antibiotics to treat those organisms," he said.

Hoffman said that while abstinence might not be taken seriously by some, it is the only foolproof way to avoid STDs.

Information from: Argus Leader,

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