The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has issued an alert for La Plata County for an increase in HIV and syphilis cases over the past 12 months in comparison to previous years. San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) encourages residents in both Archuleta and La Plata counties to educate themselves and take action toward reaching their best sexual health. In SJBPH’s jurisdiction, cases of syphilis were four times higher in 2020 than in 2019, with the trend continuing to increase in 2021. The number of newly diagnosed HIV cases has doubled from 2019 to 2020, with the trend continuing to increase in 2021. Cases of gonorrhea have been on the rise since 2017.
Syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are bacterial infections that can increase the risk of HIV acquisition and transmission. It is critical that individuals who are at high risk for STIs and HIV, particularly men who have sex with men (MSM), get tested every three months.
SJBPH encourages anyone who is sexually active to take control of their sexual health by getting and staying informed. The Sexual Health Clinic at SJBPH provides:
- Confidential STD counseling and testing for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HPV, herpes, and syphilis.
- Treatment options for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
- Vaccinations for HPV (human papillomavirus) and Hepatitis A and B.
- Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for those at high risk of contracting HIV. PrEP is a medication taken to prevent transmission of HIV that can be prescribed to patients at risk. PrEP and free condoms are available at SJBPH, Planned Parenthood, and Four Corners Infectious Disease.
“The power to protect your health is in your own hands, and SJBPH is here to help,” said Ashley Gonzalez, Clinic Manager at SJBPH. “Talk to your healthcare provider or SJBPH clinic staff about what you can do, such as using protection and getting tested, to be as proactive as possible in safeguarding your sexual health.”
SJBPH urges the public to take the following steps to take control of their sexual health:
- Prepare to answer your healthcare provider’s questions about sex honestly, which helps your provider determine the best path for care.
- Get tested – many STDs are curable, and all are treatable, including HIV.
- Get treated – protect yourself from long-term, irreversible damage to your health by starting treatment immediately.
- Know the benefits of expedited partner therapy (EPT) – your provider may be able to give you medicine or a prescription for your partner, even without seeing them first.
- Get re-tested – it’s common to get some STDs more than once, so getting retested in three months is important, even if you and your partner took medicine.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate – with your sexual partner and your healthcare provider.