Sexually transmitted infections and disease (STI, STD) are on the rise across the nation. In data collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2017 that monitored the most commonly diagnosed STDs, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, Idaho ranked amongst the lowest in the country.
In another report from VICE released in 2016, Boise State was ranked as one of the top 10 most sexually healthy colleges coming in second place after Oregon State University. The report used data from previous CDC reports.
As the largest city in Idaho, Boise ranked the highest in increased reports of STDs rates among the seven district health departments that make up the state. In quarterly reports that compare rates of infection from October-December of 2017 to rates from the same time in 2018, Boise saw 50 more infections than the previous year.
Christopher Bidiman, the executive director for Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and Aids (ALPHA), said that while Idaho may rank low on STD rates in comparison to other states, it does not indicate that they are not on the rise.
“We have seen STD rates in Idaho increase quarter after quarter compared to previous years,” Bidiman said.
Among the Boise State community, however, reported STD rates have been significantly low for its large student population compared to other universities of the same size. Boise State health education specialist Emily Gravel-Fletcher stated that the Boise State community has not seen a significant increase of infections in recent years. She attributes the low STD rates amongst college communities to recent cultural shifts that encourage open communication and education about sexual health.
Health education specialists like Gravel-Fletcher and Bidiman encourage the campus community as well as the Boise community to engage in safe sex practice as well as maintaining open communication with partners about their sexual health and practices.
Bidiman said that throughout the state, public health clinics have witnessed an alarming resurgence of syphilis infections among Idaho residents, and per the CDC it is recommended that all adults and adolescents that are sexually active get a full STD screening at least once a year. It is more important for college communities to test more regularly as more than half of all new infections occur in young people between the ages of 15-24.
In order to keep STD rates on campus low, University Health Services located in the Norco Building offers screenings at reduced rates as well as offering prevention and contraceptive methods free of charge to students.
“We do a lot for STI and STD infection,” Gravel said. “We have a clinic which is really low cost and there are fee waivers available.”
Boise State student Paloma Silva said she is surprised that Idaho falls low on STD rates as a state and even more surprised that there are not more cases of STDs on campus. As a long-time Idaho resident, Silva said a lot of students are not aware of safe sex practices or services available on campus due to the lack of sexual education in the state of Idaho.
“There’s just not a lot of sex education. I didn’t see anything about in middle or high school,” Silva said.
The CDC calculates these rates by taking the total number of reported infections in the state and then dividing it by the total population; the results then are multiplied by 100,000 to reach a grand estimate.
Based on this per-capita ranking method, Idaho ranked 46th in the country for primary and secondary syphilis infections, 47th for gonorrhea infections and 44th in chlamydia infections
As one of the fastest growing states in the nation, Gravel-Fletcher expressed that Idaho may fall lower on that ranking in the future due to increased population in Boise as well as the state.
“With increased population comes increased health issues, that’s just how population works,” Gravel-Fletcher said.
For further information on local STD rates, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare provides up-to-date quarterly statistics on STD infections throughout the state as well as preventative methods and treatment options.