ST. PAUL -- The overall number of new sexually transmitted disease infections in Minnesota decreased in 2020, according to statistics released Tuesday. But an increase of gonorrhea during the pandemic has some health officials concerned.

The state Department of Health recorded 33,252 sexually transmitted disease infections last year, compared to 33,725 cases in 2019 — a 1% decrease. That reflects drops in the number of new HIV/AIDS cases, as well as new syphilis and chlamydia infections.

There is some uncertainty in the numbers, health officials caution, because the drops could not only reflect fewer new infections, but could be a result of fewer tests taken as health services were reduced during the pandemic.

“It’s incredibly important that people seek preventive care and testing now in 2021,” said Christine Jones, STD, HIV and TB section manager for the state Health Department.

Key findings in the state report include:

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  • Chlamydia remained the top reported STD with 21,942 cases reported, an 11% decrease from 2019.

  • Gonorrhea remained the second most reported STD with 10,217 cases, a 27% increase.

  • Syphilis cases overall decreased 3% with 1,093 new cases in 2020.

  • HIV/AIDS: Newly diagnosed HIV infections fell 18% with 226 cases.

An HIV outbreak was declared in Hennepin and Ramsey counties in 2020 with cases dating back to 2018, and another outbreak was declared in the Duluth area in 2021 with cases dating back to 2019. The outbreaks are primarily affecting people sharing needles and injecting drugs, those with unstable housing or are homeless, men have sex with other men and people exchanging sex for income, the report states.

“It is also really important to get tested regularly for HIV and STDs, and if you are diagnosed with HIV, to take and stay on treatment to make the levels of virus undetectable.” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield.

For more information on the report and sexually transmitted diseases, go online to Minnesota Department of Health website (health.state.mn.us) and clicking on “Diseases & Conditions.”