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Rising Syphilis rates a concern as state marks Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness Week

State health officials are encouraging sexually active people to get tested regularly for STIs.
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Toya Sarno Jordan for NPR
State health officials are encouraging sexually active people to get tested regularly for STIs.

Michigan’s increasing rate of syphilis cases is one of the chief concerns as the state marks Sexually Transmitted Infections Awareness week.

Since 2013, Syphilis rates have doubled. The rate of infections has increased 25% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

State health department officials say contributing factors to the increase include limited access to screening and treatment complicated by COVID-19, stigma that limits open conversation about sexual health, substance use including opioids and changing patterns in how and where people meet sexual partners.

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian is Michigan’s chief medical executive.

She said the Syphilis infection rate growing fastest among heterosexuals. Bagdasarian said syphilis infections among women is especially worrisome.

“We know that pregnant women are not getting tested to the degree we need them to get tested in order to detect cases of congenital syphilis,” said Bagdasarian, “Every case of congenital syphilis is preventable. So we really want to focus on preventing all of those cases.”

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea remain the most common sexually transmitted infections in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services urges sexually active Michiganders to talk about their sexual health with their partners and get regular STI testing.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.