The California Department of Public Health reported this week that the number of reportable sexually transmitted diseases in the state increased in 2013.
The department states that there were 216,000 reports of STDs in California for last year — including nearly 168,000 cases of chlamydia, more than 38,000 cases of gonorrhea, more than 3,500 cases of primary and secondary syphilis, nearly 2,900 cases of “early latent” syphilis, and more than 3,600 cases of “late latent” syphilis.
“Sexually transmitted diseases can cause major health problems for people over time,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health and state health officer.
“We consider these very significant and concerning increases in numbers of cases and rates of disease,” said Heidi Bauer, chief of the STD control program at the Department of Public Health.
“This increase is concerning, particularly because STDs are preventable,” Chapman added.
In 2013, the rates of gonorrhea and primary and secondary syphilis (the most infectious stages) increased substantially compared to 2012: the gonorrhea rate increased 13 percent to 100.4 per 100,000 population, and the P&S syphilis rate increased 18 percent to 9.3 per 100,000 population.
In contrast, in 2013 the rate of chlamydia cases decreased slightly for the first time in almost two decades, to 439.5 per 100,000 population. Chlamydia is the most commonly reported disease in California.
STD rates continue to be highest in young people 15-24 years of age, especially for females, with over 66 percent of female chlamydia cases and over 54 percent of female gonorrhea cases being in this narrow age group.
STD rates have been on the rise on California for some time.
Regular testing for the sexually active
Dr. Chapman recommends that people talk with their health care provider about STD testing. An online directory of test sites is available at www.findstdtest.org.
Chapman pointed out that in addition to getting tested regularly, individuals can reduce their risk by using condoms, reducing their number of partners, being in a monogamous relationship or practicing abstinence.
Profound racial disparities persist. In 2013, the African-American gonorrhea rate of 351.1 per 100,000 was 6.2 times the non-Hispanic white rate of 56.9 per 100,000.
CDPH has been working to address health disparities in STDs.
The STD Control Branch has identified census tracts with high numbers of gonorrhea cases and significant racial disparities and has focused interventions in these areas.
In addition, the branch is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and California’s Department of Education to reduce the high rates of STDs among youth through supporting comprehensive sex education, improving access to sexual health services, and helping schools build supportive environments for all youth, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
CDPH trains medical providers to assure that they are assessing their patients’ risk for STDs, screening appropriately, and using the most effective treatments.
CDPH also works closely with local health jurisdictions to coordinate disease prevention and control efforts statewide, including helping identify infected individuals and assuring that they and their partners get treated.
Lake County News / KPCC