ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Sexually Transmitted Diseases are at an all-time high in Southwest Georgia, raising major concerns for the Southwest Public Health District.
Officials with Georgia's Department of Public Health said the number of people with STDs in South Georgia is at the highest level ever.
In fact, the Southwest Public Health District, which includes 14 Southwest Georgia counties, has the fourth largest number of infected individuals.
The only counties with more are Georgia's metro counties with much larger populations.
"I'm shocked like you said, it's ranked up with some of the bigger cities and to be so small that means the numbers are pretty high," said Delphia Cornish, an Albany resident.
That's what Cornish said after hearing the staggering number of people who have sexually transmitted diseases in the area.
According to the Southwest Public Health District, they are seeing higher than normal rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the 14 county region. Counties like Thomas, Worth, Colquitt, and Dougherty counties are among some of the highest in Georgia.
"When we compare ourselves to large metro areas like Clayton County, Dekalb or Fulton County, we are just neck and neck with them," said Southwest Health District Epidemiologist Jacqueline Jenkins.
Now health officials are going to non-traditional places like nightclubs, schools and colleges to bring awareness and offer STD tests for people of all ages.
"When we look at ourselves compared to other rural counties, Dougherty County has the highest STD rate of the rural community," said Jenkins.
In 2017, Dougherty County had over 1,300 cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea. In 2016 alone, health officials said nearly 800 people were infected with HIV and AIDS, causing the number of victims to rise even more.
If any STD is left untreated, it could cause women to be unable to have babies or even result in death.
"I don't have any children but I have nieces and nephews and it would be devastating to even think that they were in a situation as to where they could contract something," said Cornish.
The Southwest Public Health District said it is important to practice safe sex at all times, no exceptions.
Officials encourage every individual to get tested regularly at your local health department. There is no cost for that test.