MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There were more than 2 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases. That is a new record according to the CDC.
In the age of information and prevention, doctors and healthcare professionals are confounded at the dramatic increase, especially among young people.
We wanted to know where Shelby County fit in to the national picture and we found out, the picture being painted is not a pretty one.
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Meet your average twenty something.
"That's really scary," said Adjie Osborne. "I know at least one person with AIDS.
Another person with hepatitis, Kala Farin said. "These college students represent the frightening statistics and what some say is the new reality. They See a nonchalant attitude towards sex and the dangers of hooking up."
Daniel Ragin, another University of Memphis student told us young people just do not take STDs seriously.
"Some don't actually because some still don't use protection," he said.
Medical experts are sensing the same reality. In the last two years, Dr. Mark Castellaw of the Baptist Medical Group has seen more cases of Chlamydia and gonorrhea. Castellaw's biggest concern is the fact that the patients he's treating for STD infections are getting younger and younger.
“There's been a rapid increase in the age group, 15 to 24. And I truly believe there is a lack of fear of disease. A lack of fear of a fatal event happening from a STD. They couldn't be more wrong. These diseases are coming back. And they are coming back with a vengeance."
Nationwide, there were 1.6 million new cases of Chlamydia reported in 2016, 470,00 new cases of gonorrhea, and 28,000 new cases of syphilis. Here in the Memphis area, cases are up 26 percent with teens and twenty somethings.
Syphilis takes down your immune system and makes you more susceptible to what was once the most frightening of all: HIV. The virus still strikes fear in the heart of Tennessee's infectious disease specialists.
Dr. Shanell McGoy with the state health department was in Memphis just last month leading a symposium on HIV and AIDS. She saw 277 new cases of aids in Memphis last year alone. "Memphis ranks 8th among the top 10.
"Being educated is an important part of that. Knowing your risk, knowing how to protect yourself from STI it's very important," McGoy said.
Another issue plaguing doctors is treatment options. Antibiotics are becoming less effective in treating STDs because they've built up resistance over time. New drugs are being developed.
In the meantime, if you think you've been infected, the Shelby county health department does offer STD testing and even counseling for those who are infected.
The medical community agrees on that point: education - education - education. Dr. Castellaw added, being able to talk about ALL STDs openly, much the way we do with HIV and AIDS is important.
He adds, without knowing, "Its like playing Russian roulette."
Cox Media Group