Louisiana’s case rates of primary and secondary syphilis, congenital syphilis and gonorrhea improved from 2017 to 2018, showing the Louisiana Department of Health’s efforts toward STD prevention are making a positive impact during a time when STD ratess across the United States have been dramatically increasing.

The Department said the 2018 National CDC STD Rankings, released Tuesday, are an example of the recognition its hard work is garnering. The CDC report shows the state’s rankings declined among three of the four sexually-transmitted diseases the report surveys.

Louisiana was ranked #7 in the nation for primary and secondary syphilis case rates, declining from #3 in 2017; #3 in congenital syphilis, declining from #1 in 2017; and #5 in gonorrhea, declining from #3 in 2017. The state’s ranking for chlamydia, the fourth STD in the survey, remained unchanged at #2.

Dr. Alexander Billioux, assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health, said the CDC rankings show the Department of Health’s STD prevention efforts are moving the needle across Louisiana.

“We have been working hard to understand the problem and to implement innovative approaches to support improvement,” Billioux said. “Integrated HIV/STD/hepatitis C testing and regional STD/HIV task forces that identify local resources and address gaps and barriers are just some of the tactics we’ve rolled out to help prevent the spread of STDs.”

Dr. DeAnn Gruber, director of the Office of Public Health’s Bureau of Infectious Diseases, noted Louisiana losing its position as first in the nation for congenital syphilis rates as especially encouraging.

“Congenital syphilis cases have been on the rise year after year in the U.S., and that’s particularly unfortunate given that we have the tools to prevent babies from needlessly dying from this disease,” Gruber said. “In 2019, the Department of Health began a home visiting program to meet with moms at risk for their babies being born with congenital syphilis. This is one of several innovative programs to help educate Louisiana residents and encourage prevention, screening and treatment of STDs.”

Anyone who has sex is at risk of contracting an STD, but some groups are more affected, including gay and bisexual men, young people ages 13 to 24, and pregnant women. If left untreated, STDs can cause long-term pelvic or abdominal pain, an inability to get pregnant or pregnancy complications, or an increased risk of giving or getting HIV.

“If you want to help prevent the spread of STDs, we recommend following these three simple steps: Talk. Test. Treat,” Billioux said. “Talk with your physician or other primary care provider about your risk for STDs, get tested and then, if you test positive, get treated. It’s that easy.”

The entire CDC report can be found here.