Saturday, April 17, 2010

Checking in on STDs in Mecklenburg County

Posted By on Sat, Apr 17, 2010 at 10:17 AM

April is Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month — so what better time find out what STDs are on the rise?

Though headlines about STDs are usually dedicated to HIV and AIDS, the county health department cautions sexually active people about other risks that are out there if you’re not practicing safe sex.

For the most part, STDs can be stopped by using condoms. The only 100 percent way to stay safe is to not have sex at all. And that’s not going to happen in some segments of the population that are already having sex. In Mecklenburg County, educators in the health department keep an eye on where infections are occurring and target those groups to increase awareness, said Linda Flanagan, HIV/STD community services manager said.

For example, syphilis is on the resurgence. According to the latest numbers from the health department, 94 new cases of syphilis were reported in the county.

“We’re very concerned about the increase in the rate of syphilis,” she said. “Even though those numbers don’t approach those of gonorrhea and Chlamydia, [reported cases of gonorrhea in 2008 were 1,865 and Chlamydia in 2008 were 4,221]. We know from the preliminary reports in 2009 that the rate has doubled in Mecklenburg County in one year. That is very concerning for us because once syphilis starts to spread, it can really take off. Before you know it you have really high numbers …”

Flanagan said back in the early 1990s, it was thought that syphilis was no longer a problem. “The number of cases had reduced to a point where they were considered negligible. We thought we had beaten this disease that had been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. Then we saw an increase. It started being transmitted more rapidly. Our response to that is to try and get messages out to the community about the increase. We work with young people right now who don’t know what syphilis is.”

STDs are spread, Flanagan contends, because of the choices that people make and the key to stopping outbreaks is providing education so that people will know how to protect themselves.

Need to be tested? Free and confidential testing for HIV and STDs is available from the Mecklenburg County Health Department at:

• Beatties Ford Road Clinic

2845 Beatties Ford Rd., Charlotte 28216

• Billingsley Road Clinic

249 Billingsley Rd., Charlotte 28211

• CMC Northpark

251 Eastway Dr., Charlotte 28213

Call 704-336-6500 for appointments.

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