A medical patient gives blood to test for STIs. (Photo by Nguyễn Hiệp of Unsplashed.com)

Recent increases in sexually transmitted illnesses in Greene County prompted the Springfield-Greene County Health Department to increase testing opportunities, starting in November. 

Last year, 3,391 cases of three STIs — gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis — were reported in Greene County, an increase of 12 percent compared to 2020. As of the end of June 2022, there have been 1,412 STI cases reported in Greene County, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is responding to the high infection rates by increasing access to STI testing. The department’s STI testing clinic at 227 East Chestnut Expressway reopened this spring after closing in response to the pandemic, and has been accepting appointments on Mondays and Wednesdays. The department announced additional testing opportunities will be available by appointment only on Tuesdays, starting Nov. 1. 

STI testing clinics in Springfield

Springfield-Greene County Health Department, 227 E. Chestnut Expressway

The health department offers some walk-in appointments on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and starting Nov. 1 will schedule appointments on Tuesdays. Those appointments can be made up to 14 days in advance by filling out an online intake form here. People interested in walk-in appointments can call 417-864-1684 to make sure space is available. 

AIDS Project of the Ozarks, 303 Park Central West

The APO office downtown offers walk-in STI testing. Visit the APO website to learn more or call 417-881-1300 to schedule an appointment in advance. 

While the public safety concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic led the health department’s testing clinic to temporarily close, the increase in STI cases predates the coronavirus, said Kendra Findley, the department’s administrator for community health and epidemiology. That aligns with national trends reported by the Centers for Disease and Control

Syphilis cases have spiked locally

In Greene County, syphilis cases have recently spiked, Findley said, increasing in number substantially since 2015. That year, 20 cases were reported. In 2021, 281 cases were reported. As of June 30, 111 syphilis cases have been reported in Greene County in 2022. 

Findley said nationwide research links the increase in syphilis cases to an increase in intravenous drug use, and the practice of users sharing needles. Findley said that is one likely factor in the local rise in cases.

“It’s been going on for some time, and I think that you can also not only point to IV drug use, but you can also point to the ease of meetup apps, or hookup apps,” she said. “Because that makes it so convenient to meet somebody (and) you may not know their full name or their history. And I do think that that’s also contributed to our rise in STIs.”

Findley said syphilis patients often report a chancre, or an open sore, at the site of exposure. Some people also experience rashes on the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet.  Syphilis is treated with penicillin.

Congenital syphilis cases, in which the virus passes on to children of pregnant women who are infected, are of particular concern, Findley said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention links congenital syphilis with an increased risk of miscarriages, premature births, stillbirths and newborn deaths. 

“What you should do is know your partner, get tested often for STDs if you are involved in any at-risk activities,” Findley said. “If you think you may have an STI, you need to get in and get tested and get treated.”

Advice to limit STI exposure

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department offers several suggestions to reduce or elinimate the risk of getting an STI. They include: 

Practicing abstinence.

Using condoms. (The health department offers free condoms at its STI clinic.) 

Have fewer sexual partners, and make sure they and you have tested negative for STIs.

Get an HPV vaccination.

Talk with your partner. Talk with your sex partner(s) about STIs and staying safe before having sex.

Get tested. 

Find more educational material about mitigating STI risk here.

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson