Sexually transmitted disease rates continue to rise in WA

Gonorrhea is one of the most commonly reported STDs in the United States, with more cases than syphilis but fewer cases than chlamydia. Young women have the highest rates of chlamydia, while men have the highest rates of syphilis and gonorrhea.

The number of reported sexually transmitted diseases in California has reached an all-time high, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

Adding to the problem, says Dr. Heidi Bauer, chief of the state health department's STD Control Branch, is the fact that many Californians have been steered away from getting their health treatment at public clinics, and into private practice via the Affordable Care Act. This was the highest number the state recorded since reporting began in 1990. "Yet we continue to see an inadequate response from the CDC and the drug companies to address the growing public health threats posed by these infections, particularly those that may be medication-resistant", said AHF President Michael Weinstein.

Transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy or delivery, congenital syphilis can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, blindness, hearing loss and birth defects, among other issues, according to CDPH. "Most people infected with an STD do not know it".

Earlier this year, AHF put up a series of billboards warning that "Syphilis is Serious" with the same link to get free testing. The report found that there were 30 stillbirths due to congenital syphilis in 2017, with a total of 278 congenital syphilis cases.

"My goal is to eliminate congenital syphilis cases in LA County", said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. That could be a lingering effect of the 2008 financial crisis, when the state budget slashed public health funding.

Klausner said that sexual health - and money for education about sexual health - isn't something people like to talk about.

Reported instances of syphilis also increased.

Klausner also said sex education and programs in the community will help lessen the stigma surrounding these conditions. Chlamydia and gonorrhea rates are highest among people under 30. Many STDs can be cured with antibiotics if attacked quickly.

The most reported sexually transmitted bacterial infections in the state, chlamydia and gonorrhea typically don't have symptoms but can cause problems including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility, according to CDPH.

Vanessa Coleman

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