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Happy Valentine’s Day! STIs spike in these Bay Area counties

Sexually transmitted infections, including syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea, are rising in a few Bay Area counties. | Adobe Stock

Sexually transmitted infections, including syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea, are rising in at least two Bay Area counties—just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Santa Clara County health bosses put out an unusually cheery announcement Tuesday, urging residents to celebrate Valentine’s Day safely.

The press release began, “Testing the waters after meeting a new special someone this Valentine’s Day? Test your sexual health first!”

County health officials say chlamydia case rates took a dive in 2020, and while they rebounded in 2021, they’re still below 2012 levels. The pandemic lowered chlamydia rates enough to undo the increase of more than 40% that took place between 2012 and 2019.

READ MORE: Marin County Tests Wastewater for Deadly Drugs. Why Doesn’t San Francisco?

Gonorrhea case rates, however, more than doubled in the last decade, though they seem to be leveling off both locally and statewide, according to Santa Clara County officials. Perhaps the most concerning of all infection rates, early syphilis case rates are more than three-and-a-half times higher in 2021 than they were in 2012.

HIV diagnoses had stabilized for nearly a decade prior to the pandemic, then decreased in 2020. While those numbers are now rebounding slightly, they’re still below pre-Covid rates.

Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara Public Health Department director | Ray Chavez/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department recommends getting a free checkup before going on a date, as well as spicing up methods of protection by using condoms, dental dams and lubricants that come in a variety of different flavors, textures, colors and sizes.

For free or low-cost screening, testing and treatment options through the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, call (408) 792-3720 or visit GetTestedSCC.org

The Crane Center at 976 Lenzen Ave. in San Jose is also open during business hours for no appointment necessary HIV and Hepatitis C testing on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays—appointments are needed for other tests.

San Mateo County

San Mateo County health officials say STIs are rising there, too, with data from the third quarter of 2022 (the most recent available) showing a 17.2% increase in chlamydia rates compared to the third quarter of 2021. Additional data from the third quarter of 2022 shows a 13% increase in gonorrhea and a 40% increase in syphilis, though that 40% increase is up from 65 cases to 91 cases.

"You will see that our numbers are increasing, though we caution that case numbers are still low, so small increases may show up as large percentages,” San Mateo County Health spokesperson Preston Merchant said. “Syphilis has been on the rise for the past 10 years or so, in San Mateo County and elsewhere in the Bay Area. We’re up somewhat substantially from 2021 to 2022, but that’s pandemic related. We’re not up so much from the 2019 and 2020 totals.”

More information on sexual health for San Mateo County is available on its website.

Alameda County was still in the process of requesting 2021 data from the state. Contra Costa, Marin, Napa and Solano counties were unable to procure data in time for publication, while San Francisco and Sonoma did not return The Standard’s requests for comment.