MOUNDSVILLE - The Mountain State's sexually-transmitted disease rate of infection over the years looks similar to a rolling mountain range, according to Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble.
The Wheeling area doesn't "have the large number of STDs that other metropolitan regions have," Gamble said.
According to Gamble, there were 148 reported STD cases in West Virginia between 1984 and 2012, and 192 reported cases of HIV/AIDS.
Tests like these can be purchased at local pharmacies to determine whether a person is infected with a sexually transmitted diesease or pregnant so they can seek the appropriate treatment.
Photo by Daniel Dorsch
"STDs are preventable, but they do occur here," Gamble said. "Once a person is tested positive and we are notified, we investigate and do whatever we can to prevent the spread. Every once in a while, there will be an outbreak, a deviation from the norm."
Such a case came about three years ago, when a syphilis outbreak struck the local area.
But Gamble said these deviations are usually small in scale and can be treated.
One disease Gamble said is becoming harder to treat is the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea.
"We are very limited in what drugs we can use, because the infectious diseases are becoming more resistant to treatments," Gamble said.
Marshall County Health Department Administrator Ronda Francis confirmed the rise in gonorrhea cases by providing statistics from the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, which indicate a 10 percent increase in reported cases statewide.
But while some disease rates rise, Gamble said treatment continues to improve. He said HIV tests can now be purchased over the counter in pharmacies to perform in the privacy of one's home.
As for seniors, local health professionals say sexual health is more important than expected.
Gamble said many older men and women do not think they can be at risk for sexually transmitted diseases or HIV.
However, he said anyone who is sexually active, regardless of age, should take the proper steps to be protected.
"Individuals who are sexually active need to practice safe sex by using a condom and limiting sexual partners," he said.
Gamble said older individuals are still at risk of getting an STD, including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia infection, genital herpes, hepatitis B, genital warts and trichomoniasis. He said national trends show STDs and HIV are on the rise among the nation's boomers.
"Nationally, the number of older people with HIV/AIDS is growing, but this could be the result of better treatments for HIV and AIDS and not new infections among older individuals," Gamble said, urging all county residents to practice safe sex.