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Sexually Transmitted Infection Rates On The Rise In Pennsylvania

Reed Saxon
Public service posters in English and Spanish are seen at a news conference to announce a Los Angeles County program to provide young women in South Los Angeles with home-testing kits for sexually transmitted diseases.

On today's program: Statewide rates of syphilis have risen over the last five years, mirroring a rise in sexually transmitted infections nationwide; Pittsburgh journalist Mark Houser’s latest book “MultiStories” documents antique skyscrapers; and sexual abuse survivors are reeling after an administrative error halted a constitutional amendment that would have allowed survivors to sue their perpetrators.

Syphilis rates are the highest they’ve been in 20 years, but the pandemic may disrupt that
(0:00 — 6:18) 

A Penn State researcher expects to see a major spike in sexually transmitted infections, or STI cases by March. Casey Pinto, assistant professor of public health at Penn State University, told The Confluence that she plans to research STI rates next month.

“In March [2020], we shut everything down. But that doesn't mean that people stopped having sex,” Pinto said. “Yes, we told people not to go out, but the people who are at risk for STIs are the ones more likely to bend or break the rules.”

While COVID-19 testing has become more widespread, she said STI testing has decreased drastically across the nation.

“All three of these [STIs] do not cause symptoms like 80% of the time. These patients won't have any symptoms. So they may not think that they're that they have this risk or they may not think that there's a problem,” Pinto said. 

Syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia infections have been rising nationally. Early syphilis cases in Pennsylvania is at its highest rate in over 20 years.

Pinto says anyone who tests positive for an STI should let their partners know since many of the contact tracers for STIs were pulled away to help with COVID-19 contact tracing.

“MultiStories” book tours antique skyscrapers

(6:21 — 12:53)

Look up in downtown Pittsburgh and you will see skyscrapers, including the U.S. Steel Tower, Fifth Avenue Place, and the Gulf Tower. Skyscrapers have been erected in our city and others around the country for well over a century.

“Skyscrapers are an American invention,” says Mark Houser. The veteran Pittsburgh journalist has a new book, “MultiStories: 55 Antique Skyscrapers and the Business Tycoons Who Built Them.” The new work harkens to a column with the same name that documented Pittsburgh’s skyscrapers.

“These were invented in the late 1800s in America, so there are plenty of them that are more than a century old,” says Houser. For him to consider a building “antique,” Houser says his criteria were an existing building ten stories or taller, and built before 1929 (the year the Empire State Building was erected).

Houser says skyscrapers ultimately changed the feel and look of cities. 

“A lot of people weren’t real keen on that, that’s one of the reasons why it took so long for there to be skyscrapers in Europe and other places.”

This, he says, is part of why skyscrapers are decorated so lavishly: to convince guests and locals the buildings are beautiful. 

After Department of State administrative error, sexual abuse survivors are reeling
(12:57 — 18:00)

An administrative error earlier this month derailed a push to allow victims of decades-old sexual abuse to sue over those claims in Pennsylvania.


Keystone Crossroads’ Laura Benshoff reports that setback has dealt a blow to the mental health of survivors, and derailed the process for thousands to have their day in court.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Isabelle is a student at George Washington University studying Political Communication. She loves all things Pittsburgh sports and serves as a sports anchor for GW-TV. In her free time, she enjoys museum hopping and walking her dog, Stevie.
I'm a senior in my last semester studying Multimedia Journalism at Westminster College. I always love learning more about environmental issues, technology, the LGBT+ community, foreign cultures, grammatical rules, and politics. Whenever I'm not asking questions or researching, I like to practice photography, play video games, make art, play flute, go birding, or hike in the woods and hope that I don't find any ticks or bears. So far, I am 0 for ticks and 2 for bears (they were baby bears, but that should still count.)
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