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Minorities Hit Hard By Infectious Disease

2009-04-04 09:41

During April, Minority Health Month and STD Awareness Month, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is teaming up with numerous organizations to address health disparities in Illinois, especially the disproportionate number of minorities impacted by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These diseases continue to be the most commonly reported infectious diseases in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Department is helping to sponsor minority health education and screening events across Illinois during April, many of which focus on STD education and awareness.

“Although we have made advances in reducing health disparities among minorities, we need to continue to work to eliminate these disparities. Statistics show minorities are heavily impacted by STDs, which is one of the reason numerous Minority Health Month events are focusing on education and awareness of STD/HIV/AIDS. By changing risky behaviors we can turn around this alarming trend, stop the suffering and save lives,” said state public health director, Dr. Damon T. Arnold.

The 2007 CDC Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report showed persistent racial disparities in sexually transmitted diseases, and a particularly heavy burden of disease among women. African-American women 15 to 19 years of age, account for the highest rates of both chlamydia (9,646.7 per 100,000 population) and gonorrhea (2,955.7 per 100,000 population) of any group in the country.

In Illinois, the rate of reported gonorrhea cases per 100,000 population in 2007 among African Americans (832/100,000) was 26 times greater than the rate among Caucasians (32/100,000). The rate of reported chlamydia cases per 100,000 population in 2007 among African Americans (1,636/100,000) was 10 times greater than the rate among Caucasians (165/100,000).

Also in 2007, women age 15-24 accounted for 74 percent (30,740) of all chlamydia cases in Illinois women (41,733) and 54 percent of all reported cases of chlamydia in women were among African Americans (22,366).

The CDC reports that in the U.S.:

For chlamydia, the most commonly-reported STD, rates were:

• 8 times higher among African Americans than among Caucasians
• 5 times higher among American Indians/Alaska Natives than among Caucasians
• 3 times higher among Hispanics than among Caucasians

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The disparities for gonorrhea were even greater:

• 18 times higher among African Americans than among Caucasians
• 4 times higher among American Indians/Alaska Natives than among Caucasians
• 2 times higher among Hispanics than among Caucasians

IDPH, in collaboration with local health departments, health care providers and community based organizations and institutions, conducts a number of activities to prevent and reduce STDs including:

• Providing free laboratory testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea to encourage health care providers to screen sexually active females 15 to 25 years of age

• Providing free antibiotics for the treatment of STDs to local health department STD clinics, family planning clinics, adult and juvenile correctional facilities and other health care providers serving persons at increased risk for STD transmission and acquisition.

• Providing technical assistance to health care providers to encourage accessible and high quality diagnostic and treatment services.

• Encouraging schools, parents and community based organizations to provide comprehensive health education including abstinence, skill-based STD and HIV prevention, and healthy sexuality.

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