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'So much anonymous sex' blamed as STDs increase in SD

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — An increase in sexually transmitted diseases in South Dakota may be the result of people having more flings with partners they meet on the Internet, the state epidemiologist speculates.

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Cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia in the state all are ahead of last year’s pace, and officials attribute the increase to online liaisons and to an increasingly lax attitude about risky behavior.

“People go online looking for somebody ... and they say, ‘OK, meet me.’ It’s become very much anonymous and hard to track,” State Epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger told the Argus Leader.

South Dakota had 21 reported cases of syphilis in 2012 after none the year before and a total of 10 the three years before that. The state had 23 reported cases the first nine months of this year.

Chlamydia cases in South Dakota totaled 2,977 through September, a pace slightly ahead of a record 3,924 in 2012. Gonorrhea cases totaled 560 the first nine months, also ahead of last year.

If someone who is infected comes to a clinic for help, the partner often is gone from the scene without either knowing the other’s name, Kightlinger said.

“It’s really hard for us to be able to have any control, because there’s so much anonymous sex going on,” said Judy Kendall, a registered nurse and disease intervention specialist with the city of Sioux Falls.

Kendall said that even though sexually transmitted diseases by law must be reported to the state, the numbers probably are a fraction of the true total.

“A lot of people are trying to fly under the radar,” she said.

A three-year, $390,000 federal grant to help combat HIV-AIDS has provided Sioux Falls with money to employ three part-time registered nurses and to pay for education efforts. The city recently sent 2,000 letters to doctors and other health care providers in the state, calling attention to the rise of sexual diseases.