South Dakota health officials recently asked CDC to help address the state’s growing STD problem. During the past five years, gonorrhea rates are up 61 percent and chlamydia rates are up 21 percent. American Indians are particularly affected, accounting for 56 percent of the gonorrhea cases during this period.
In June, Brooke Hoots, a CDC epidemic intelligence service officer, joined Dr. Jennifer Giroux, an epidemiologist with the Aberdeen Area Indian Health Service, and other health care professionals to investigate these rates. The team visited two reservations and found that screenings in tribal and IHS facilities needed improvement; often, health care providers were unaware of the increased STD rates.
Farrah Big Crow, with the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, said, “We definitely need increased screening on a constant basis because it is a great epidemic.”
The team made four recommendations: increase screening; improve the treatment of sexual partners once a patient is diagnosed; increase awareness across the state; and improve communication among agencies.
Lon Kightlinger, South Dakota’s state epidemiologist, said STD rates are highest among 15- to 25-year-olds, with women diagnosed at a higher rate because they tend to get more medical care. When men do not get screened or treated, infections continue to be spread to their female partners.
Although Kightlinger said screening for gonorrhea and chlamydia requires only a urine sample, Big Crow said far too often people stay away from treatment because they fear it will be complicated.
Kightlinger added, “We’ve had cases of STDs in every county in the state over the last five years. It’s widespread.”
He warned about complacency: “We don’t want HIV to increase in South Dakota, and we don’t want this increase in STDs to be a precursor. We need to hit it hard now.”
Date of Publication
Lynn Taylor Rick
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