Los Angeles County To Fight Sexually Transmitted Diseases

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Sexually Transmitted Diseases in LA

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has launched an innovative campaign to reverse the increase in cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia in the County.

The public education campaign, funded by the County Board of Supervisors, repeatedly and strongly urges young, sexually-active African American women and Latinas, gay and bi-sexual men to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) every six months.

"The rates of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are all alarmingly high and rising in our community," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Public Health Director and County Health Officer. "Last year alone, nearly 18,000 cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea were recorded among African American and Latina women younger than 25 years of age in LA County. Gay and bi-sexual men represented at least 1,000 cases of syphilis in 2006.

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"It is obvious we need a new way to tackle this situation. In conjunction with members of affected communities and with other stakeholders, we developed a campaign with the goal in mind to reduce the toll of these preventable diseases. There is no reason for anyone to suffer the devastating health consequences of these curable STDs when regular testing and treatment is easily available."

Gay and bi-sexual men in LA County continue to face a serious problem with syphilis. In 2005, 85% of the recorded syphilis cases were among this group. Six out of 10 of those cases occurred among HIV-positive men. Untreated syphilis can have devastating health consequences, including impairment of the ability to walk, permanent vision loss, permanent hearing loss, and brain damage. Public Health identifies patients with these health outcomes every year.

There are more than 30,000 cases of chlamydia and more than 5,000 cases of gonorrhea in women alone every year in LA County. African American and Latina women make up the largest number of those reported cases out of any other group.

"Gonorrhea and chlamydia are often asymptomatic, so that infected individuals do not know they are infected, and do not seek medical care," said Peter R. Kerndt, MD, MPH, Director of the Sexually Transmitted Disease Program, Department of Public Health. "However, these diseases can have serious consequences, including complications during pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain, and infertility."

The campaign uses guerilla marketing tactics such as graffiti murals, sidewalk drawings, printed drink coasters and mirror stickers in night clubs and gyms, along with traditional media such as posters and billboards. Women who are most at risk of contracting gonorrhea and chlamydia will see the message "I Know" or "Yo S

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