North Carolina is ranked as the sixth-highest state for prevalence of STIs, according to Background Checks.org.
The top-10 high-risk states were mainly in the South.
Dr. Peter Leone, professor of medicine at UNC, said STI rates are high in North Carolina because, historically, the South has had some of the highest STI rates in the country. He said the South has rural populations with poor access to health care, transportation issues and difficulty getting frequent screenings for things like sexually transmitted infections — making disease rates go up.
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, the two most common STIs, are on the rise. Chlamydia is of particular concern, since symptoms are not immediately apparent, but the infection can easily be spread, according Background Checks.org.
Dr. Arlene Seña-Soberano, professor of medicine at UNC and medical director of the Durham County Health Department, said a lot of STIs are asymptomatic — meaning one may have an STI but not the symptoms — so it’s important to get routine screening on a regular basis.
Leone said students and young people should make sure their partner is being tested to minimize their chances of contracting an STI.
"Lack of symptoms doesn't mean that you're not infected," he said. "So the idea that you can look or ask someone to see if they have an STI doesn't hold up."
In 2016, North Carolina experienced a slight decrease in Chlamydia infections per 1,000 people, according to Background Checks.org.
Dr. Claire Farel, medical director of the UNC Infectious Diseases Clinic, said Gonorrhea and Chlamydia can infect any site you expose during sex.
"We make sure that we check a rectal swab and throat swab as well as the urine or a cervical swab," she said. "Make sure you feel comfortable telling your health care provider how you have sex to make sure you get a complete check."
Seña-Soberano said college students need to know they are at a high-risk for STIs, as the highest rate for Chlamydia and Gonnorrhea is among people in the 20- to 24-year-old age group in North Carolina.
Leone said young, sexually-active adults should take steps to prevent themselves from getting infected, such as getting tested, getting their partners tested, using condoms and checking their partners' HIV status.
As applications like Tinder and Grindr allow people to find hookup partners with the swipe of a finger, STI rates have been increasing across the country, according to Background Checks.org
Seña-Soberano said Campus Health Services and family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood offer testing. She said use of condoms and pregnancy prevention are important to consider as well.
Farel said to take advantage of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, a daily pill to prevent HIV, which the UNC Infectious Diseases Clinic offers.
Dr. Thevy Chai, a lead physician at UNC Campus Health Services, said in an email young people who are sexually active should get STI testing periodically.
"Consider getting tested every two to three months after having a new sexual partner," she said. "Also encourage sexual partners to get STI testing."
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