STD rate in Kalamazoo and Kent counties rises

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — New statistics out of Kalamazoo County reveal an alarming increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases — and it’s not the only West Michigan county seeing a rise.

In 2014, the STD rate in Kalamazoo County jumped nearly 27 percent over 2013. Figures are not suggesting a decline so far this year.

“It’s certainly concerning, and it’s something that we’re trying to look for root causes for,” Adam London, a Kent County Health Department health officer, told 24 Hour News 8 on Thursday.

While he said he couldn’t speculate on the cause of the spike in Kalamazoo County, he did say he is not surprised. His department is battling the same issues.

STD rates in Michigan on average are actually on a slight decline. But in Kent County, where the figure was already above the state average, rates have risen slightly since 2012.

(A graph showing STD rates in Michigan, Kalamazoo County and Kent County between 2012 and 2014.)
(A graph showing STD rates in Michigan, Kalamazoo County and Kent County between 2012 and 2014.)

“We know that there are changing values toward sex, and that’s not helpful,” London said.

The majority of STD cases reported are in teenagers and people in their 20s. That’s the same group that’s most likely to use so-called “hook-up” apps like Tinder, which are growing in popularity.

London says those apps are a huge concern when it comes to the spread of STDs.

“(The apps) really are meant to be an aid to people who are looking for those quick, casual relationships — it’s not even a relationship — those quick, casual sexual encounters, which are very destructive and very risky,” London said.

So what can be done to battle this problem? After all, it’s not a new one.

Kent County Health officials say continuing to educate the public is key. But with changes in society and technology, they say it may become more difficult to curb the number of STD cases.

“Unfortunately, I do think they will continue to rise. Both because the opportunities are increasing for bad decisions, (and) the values regarding sexual norms are changing,” London said.

Kent County is working to improve testing and treatment of STDs, which may, in turn, slightly contribute to the rise in rates.

Health officials in Kalamazoo County wouldn’t comment on their numbers Thursday night, but they are holding a press conference Friday to discuss the spike in STD rates.

According to its website, the Kalamazoo Health & Community Services Department will be hosting an STD educational forum in October. Health officials will also be introducing an STD task force at that event.



Kalamazoo Health & Community Services Department STD Clinic

Kent County Health Department on STDs

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