California: San Francisco Officials Take Aim at STD Spikes
August 24, 2012
Public health officials in San Francisco are using new measures to fight rising rates of STDs. Among sexually active men who have sex with men, these steps include additional STD testing during checkups -- now recommended on a quarterly basis -- and deploying mobile-device technology for outreach.
San Francisco's STD rates have increased for six years in a row, and this trend is continuing. In 2012, 492 cases of syphilis were reported between January and June; during the same period in 2011, there were 392 cases. Gonorrhea and chlamydia cases also increased.
MSM are being urged to get pharyngeal and rectal tests during checkups to find STDs that may otherwise go undetected. "What we find these days is that gay men tend to be very knowledgeable about how HIV is transmitted. But there is not the same level around other STIs," said Steve Gibson, director of Magnet, a San Francisco men's health center.
City health officials are working on new outreach approaches that use cell phones. For example, they want to employ smartphone apps such as Grindr and Scruff, which are used to meet people, to notify at-risk sex partners to get tested.
Also, Magnet is working with the Oakland nonprofit Internet Sexuality Information Services (ISIS) on a new text messaging notification system to be rolled out in September. Men will be able to sign up to receive monthly sexual health tips or appointment and STD testing reminders via their mobile device.
The state STD control branch is piloting a similar system in San Diego and wants to expand it statewide by the end of 2013. For more information, visit www.wealltest.org.
Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco)
08.23.2012; Matthew S. Bajko
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