Increase in Syphilis Cases, Two Other STDs Spurs Concern
According to the California Department of Public Health, syphilis cases in the state increased 18 percent from 2010 to 2011. Cases of chlamydia climbed 5 percent, and gonorrhea was up by 1.5 percent.
Heidi Bauer, chief of the STD Control Branch for the state public health agency, said, “The longer people have these infections without being treated, the more likely it is they are going to develop a complication that will have both health and financial costs.”
State officials are targeting specific populations to reduce transmission of the diseases, including men who have sex with men - a population with a high prevalence of syphilis - and young black women, who have much higher gonorrhea rates than young white women.
Bauer explained that the state does not know the reason for the increases, but individuals may be engaging in more risky behaviors and becoming more complacent about practicing safe sex. Also, people who do not know they are infected may unknowingly transmit the diseases, which often are asymptomatic.
In addition, local programs that provide STD testing and clinical services have seen their funding cut. According to Bauer, many programs have been eliminated or had their budgets reduced, leading to less health education, follow-up, and testing.
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