With sexually transmitted infections (STIs) an increasing concern across the state, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) is encouraging prevention strategies and testing for residents.
Comparing 2021 reported cases with those from 2020 shows Wyoming experienced a 23.6 percent increase in chlamydia cases, a 33.5 percent increase in gonorrhea cases and a 35.5 percent increase in syphilis cases. To date in 2022, statewide, there have been approximately 982 cases of chlamydia, 175 cases of gonorrhea and 35 cases of syphilis reported.
The most commonly diagnosed STI in Wyoming is chlamydia. Of the 2021 chlamydia infections reported in Wyoming, 24 percent occurred in 15-19 year olds, 41 percent in 20-24 year olds and 27 percent in 25-34 year olds.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said the increased rates are unfortunate. “If left untreated, these infections can cause long-term pelvic or abdominal pain, an increased risk of getting HIV, infertility, pregnancy complications, stillbirth and infant death,” she said.
Harrist noted overall STI testing was down in 2020 and 2021 compared to previous years, resulting in potentially undiagnosed and untreated STIs in Wyoming.
Harrist said STI prevention strategies include:
- Abstaining from all types of sexual contact
- Getting tested before starting a new sexual relationship
- Before having sexual contact, asking potential sexual partners if they have been tested since their last sexual partner
- Choosing lower risk types of sexual contact
- Consistent and correct condom use with sexual contact
- Limiting the number of sexual partners
- Routine testing for STIs
Leslie Fowler, Communicable Disease Prevention Program manager with WDH, reminded residents that testing for STIs, HIV, and viral hepatitis can be important. “While STIs sometimes make their presence known through symptoms like itching, burning, discharge or visible sores, most people have no symptoms,” she said. “Also, many people are not aware that while these infections often occur in the genitals they can also occur in the throat and rectum so it’s important to ask your provider about extra-genital or three-site testing to identify these infections, as all untreated STIs can have serious health consequences.”
“We always say, the only way to know your STI status, for sure, is to get tested,” Fowler said.
WDH offers detailed STI information, free condom resources, low or no-cost testing, at-home testing options and STI treatment through the KnoWyo website.
Wyoming’s specific STI testing recommendations are based on risk and can be found online.
Risks for STIs, HIV and viral hepatitis include:
- Sexual contact without a barrier method (condom, dental dam, gloves)
- Sex with multiple partners
- Survivor of sexual assault or sexual abuse
- Sexual contact while drunk or high
- Intranasal or injection drug use
- Anonymous sexual contact
Harrist said prenatal care in Wyoming usually includes testing for STIs. “For healthier pregnancies and babies and to help prevent congenital syphilis in babies, repeat testing should be provided throughout the pregnancy when certain high-risk situations apply,” she said. These conditions include if:
- Patient or partner have other sexual partners
- Use of injection or intranasal drugs
- Unprofessional or homemade tattoos or piercings