Public health budgets nationwide are affecting how and with whom Americans have sex.
Across-the-board cutbacks are threatening efforts to stem sexually transmitted infection rates, but Louisiana health officials say there’s more to solving the problem than throwing dollars at it. The state is working to expand access to screening and treatment at the same time its spending on prevention decreases.
“Health doesn’t just take place in a clinic. It should be what we live,” said Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Assistant Secretary for Public Health J.T Lane.
STD prevention expenditures in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals budget are at their lowest levels since at least 2011 while federal funding for the same costs are the highest they’ve been since 2012.
Total prevention expenditures decreased by nearly $2.4 million — decreasing from $11 million to $8.6 million — between 2011 and 2014.
Federal dollars have gone from $2.5 million in 2011 to $3.4 million this year, an increase of more than $900,000. State spending decreased from $7.1 million in 2011 to $4.6 million this year — a $2.5 million cut.
Revenues collected from Medicade billings, co-pays and private insurance spent on STD prevention in Louisiana also decreased from $1.3 million in 2011 to $621,245 this year. The lowest spending of these dollars in those years was $535,960 spent in 2013.
Louisiana in 2012 had the country’s highest rate of infection for congenital syphilis, the second highest for gonorrhea, the third highest for primary and secondary syphilis and the fourth highest for chlamydia. Caddo ranked fourth in the nation for syphilis, and the parish was near the top for all other kinds of sexual infections in the state.
Louisiana in 2013 received about $2.2 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for non-HIV/AIDS STD prevention, the largest single portion of which — 11.4 percent — was spent in Northwest Louisiana. The New Orleans area received the second largest slice at 11 percent.
The distribution of those federal funds is based on per capita need, Lane said, with resources deployed where they’re most needed.