PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) – Over the past five years, Pueblo County has consistently reported higher numbers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than the rest of the state. Now the health department says those numbers are a wake-up call for better access to medical care.
According to the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment (PDPHE), Pueblo County has “historically been a county with higher STI rates than counties in Colorado.”
Justin Gage, the PDPHE program manager, said Pueblo County has a higher number of reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
Below is a breakdown of STI rates per 1,000 over the past five years.
When asked why Pueblo County has higher numbers than the rest of the state, including larger counties, PDPHE said they don’t have a definitive answer, but they believe that this was due to a lack of education about STIs.
Gage said the PDPHE is actively working to increase education on these topics to help reduce the number of people in Pueblo.
The PDPHE has developed an STI coalition aimed at finding community solutions to increase awareness and education. Ministry officials also said they were working on a media outreach plan.
“We’re also developing a program here to do a lot of media outreach. So you’ll see billboards and bus benches and things in our neighborhood, and TV commercials promoting our GoTara website. That has a lot of ITS resources there,” Gage said.
Go Ask Tara offers confidential and anonymous messaging to anyone seeking sexual health information.
PEPHE recommends getting tested at least once a year and always using protection, such as condoms.
Health officials told KRDO they want to remind the community that an STI can happen to anyone and some are hard to detect.
“Unfortunately, it could happen to anyone. A handful of these STIs have no symptoms. So you may not even know you have an STI. That’s why it’s best to get tested. Know your status even if you only have limited partners. If you’ve been with the same partner, it’s still worth getting tested at least once a year,” Gage said.
PDPHE also works to break the stigma around talking about STIs.
“We think being very upfront about your test status, that you’ve been tested recently. That’s really important and can build a relationship as well,” Gage said.
Gage also said the PDPHE is also concerned about pregnant mothers passing syphilis to their unborn children.
“Syphilis can be passed to their babies when they have syphilis,” Gage explained. “They need to make sure they get treatment for it. So make sure you get tested.”
Parents are encouraged to have an open and honest dialogue about STI risks with their children and to ensure that they are informed about safer sex.
The PDPHE has a list of clinics to get tested on its website here.
They also have an appointment to get tested at the PDPHE clinic based on their income.