DES MOINES - Black Hawk County had the highest per capita rate of reported cases of chlamydia, syphilis or gonorrhea in 2007, according to a report released Wednesday from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The report shows that Black Hawk County had 776 cases of the sexually transmitted diseases per 100,000 people.

Scott County ranked second with a rate of 721 per 100,000 population, and Polk County ranked third with a rate of 595.

The Department of Public Health reported that Black Hawk County had 740 cases of chlamydia, 233 cases of gonorrhea and five cases of syphilis.

Black Hawk County has battled high sexually transmitted disease rates for years, said Ann Rogers, Black Hawk County disease surveillance program manager.

"It's just a constant struggle and constant problem that we have to continue to work on," Rogers said.

She couldn't say why Black Hawk sees such high rates, but she said education programs like Allen Hospital's "Together for Youth" can help.

She said the program teaches Waterloo students about sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.

Iowa's numbers mirror national trends, said Karen Thompson, program manager for the Iowa Department of Public Health's sexually transmitted disease program.

Thompson said the U.S. has some of the highest sexually transmitted disease and teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world.

"It's not unique to Iowa. It's a countrywide issue," she said.

Reported national chlamydia rates increased from 50.8 cases per 100,000 people in 1987 to 347.8 cases per 100,000 in 2006, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The rate of reported gonorrhea in the United States was 120.9 cases per 100,000 in 2006, a 5.5 percent jump from the year before.

Thompson said education can help combat the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and she called on communities, schools and families to take a more active approach to educating students.

"The fact is that they (diseases) are here, and we need to as a society address sexual health," she said. "I think communities need to become open to discussing it."

Contact Fred Love at (515) 243-0138 or fred.love@lee.net.

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