SoCal STD Rates Through the Roof

SoCal STD Rates Through the Roof

Dr. Ernest Levister

Surge Among Young, African Americans, Gay and Bisexual Men

Surge Among Young, African Americans, Gay and Bisexual Men 

Public health officials throughout Southern California are grappling with alarming increases in syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia that are part of a national epidemic. 

Cases of these three sexually transmitted diseases have been increasing nationally since 2014, according to new statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The rapid rise in cases reverses a downward trend that began in 2006. Health officials say the rates reflect decreasing condom usage, a lack of awareness about STDs among doctors and patients, and a falling number of STD clinics. 

In 2016, there were more than 250,000 cases of STDs reported, which represents a 40 percent increase compared to 2011, the data showed. 

Those cases included nearly 200,000 cases of chlamydia, nearly 65,000 cases of gonorrhea and more than 11,000 cases of early syphilis, according to the CDPH. 

In San Bernardino County, between 2011 and 2015, reported gonorrhea cases increased by 96 percent, syphilis by 137 percent and chlamydia by 2.5 percent. 

For Riverside County, between 2011 and 2015, reported gonorrhea cases were up 142 percent, syphilis 74 percent and chlamydia 12 percent. 

The CDC says with most STD cases going undiagnosed and untreated, people are at “risk for severe and often irreversible health consequences,” including infertility, chronic pain and increased transmission of HIV. Treating STDs costs roughly $16 billion annually. 

In California, the highest STD rates are found among young people, African-Americans and gay and bisexual men, according to the state. 

The reasons are complex, but include medical and social factors ranging from a lack of adequate screening to decreased fear of curable sexually transmitted diseases. 

No one really knows the definitive cause of all this. No one can pin it on one or two things. 

The CDC recommends the following screening guidelines: 

  • Sexually active women under 25, or older women with new or multiple sex partners, should be tested annually for chlamydia and gonorrhea. 
  • Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis and chlamydia early in pregnancy. 
  • Sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV at least once a year, more frequently for those with multiple or anonymous partners. 

Community groups have developed strategies to target at-risk populations. In San Bernardino County, Planned Parenthood runs two programs with outreach not only to schools, but group homes and foster care agencies.

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