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For STI Awareness Week, RIDOH Highlights New Initiatives to Address Rising STI Rates

In observance of National STI Awareness Week, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is highlighting some of the public health campaigns and innovations it has implemented recently, in partnership with community-based organizations, to address rising sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates in Rhode Island.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2022 Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Surveillance Report released in January shows STI rates continued to increase nationwide, with more than 2.5 million new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis identified in the United States in 2022. In March, RIDOH released its 2022 Rhode Island HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Viral Hepatitis, and Tuberculosis Surveillance Report, indicating that STI rates were continuing to increase in Rhode Island as well.

"If you are sexually active, make sure to have a discussion with your medical provider regarding the need to be tested periodically for STIs," said Dr. Philip Chan, Consultant Medical Director for RIDOH's Division of Emergency Preparedness and Infectious Disease. "This is especially true if you have multiple sexual partners or are contemplating pregnancy."

More information about initiatives and resources from RIDOH's Center for HIV, Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases & Tuberculosis Epidemiology is available online. Some of those key initiatives and resources are outlined below.

Recognizing that consistent, correct use of condoms are important parts of safer sex, unplanned pregnancy prevention, and prevention of HIV and other STIs, RIDOH's free condoms by mail program allows Rhode Islanders to request a small package of condoms to be mailed to them on a monthly basis. RIDOH has launched a new bilingual public health campaign, "Your Health, Your Choice: Know Your Options," and "Your Guide to Safer Sex," in English (health.ri.gov/youroptions) and Spanish (health.ri.gov/susopciones). These web pages highlight the many options Rhode Islanders can consider to help prevent HIV and other STIs, as well as information on a variety of HIV and STI testing services.

These services include care at community health centers and sexual health clinics, free at-home HIV test kits sent by mail or available in the community, and RIDOH's TESTING 1-2-3 program, which allows people to get tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, as well as HIV or Hepatitis C at the lab of their choice without a trip to the doctor's office.

This month the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition is launching the innovative RIghtToKnow sexual and reproductive health app, in partnership with RIDOH. Over half the cases of STIs nationwide involve young people between the ages of 15-24. Recognizing that reality, this web-based app was created as an innovative educational resource for teens, young adults, educators, and parents. On this app, you can select content to be displayed in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and many other languages.

The beta version of the RIghtToKnow app, which is also expected to be available to download on the App Store and Google Play, is available now at righttoknowapp.com. This project was inspired by RIDOH's RIghtTime app (righttimeapp.com), which was created in 2018 as a sexual and reproductive health informational resource for people of all ages.

In January, RIDOH launched the "Healthy Beginning" campaign in English (health.ri.gov/healthybeginning) and Spanish (health.ri.gov/comienzosaludable), a bilingual community initiative to increase awareness and provide the support that expecting mothers need in order to access quality prenatal care and raising awareness about the importance of prenatal screening, including for congenital syphilis. The campaign is intended to help RIDOH address concerning trends in congenital syphilis rates being observed both nationally and in Rhode Island. Between 2020-2022 RIDOH received eight reports of congenital syphilis, which were the first reports in over 10 years.

For in-depth data and analysis on national STI trends, see CDC's 2022 Sexually Transmitted Infections Surveillance Report at cdc.gov/std/statistics/2022/. RIDOH's 2022 HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Viral Hepatitis, and Tuberculosis Surveillance Report is posted online at health.ri.gov/publications/surveillance/2022/HIVSTI.pdf.

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