March 7, 2002
Richmond's gonorrhea rate was 923.6 cases per 100,000 residents in 2000; this is about seven times the national average of 131.6 cases per 100,000 people. In raw numbers, Richmond recorded 1,752 cases of gonorrhea in 2000, down from 1,827 the year before; however, greater declines in other high-ranking cities put Richmond in the top spot.
"People have to stop turning their heads and pretending the problem is not here," said George Jones, health promotions coordinator for the Richmond Department of Public Health. "There are a lot of authorities who don't want to talk about it. That taboo needs to be lifted. People need to be educated. You have a new generation of young people who really don't know the facts about sexually transmitted diseases and how they are contracted. Until we are allowed to talk about that and teach them, they will never know."
There is better news for the city on another STD: Cases of infectious syphilis dropped enough so that the city was bumped from the list of 20 US cities with the highest syphilis rates. In 1999, Richmond ranked 19th on the list.
Later this month, city and state health officials will kick off a syphilis eradication project to further reduce STD numbers, said Michelle Stoll, state health department spokesperson for the STD division. That effort, supported by a $500,000 CDC grant, will consist of a five-person team to do intensive outreach.
State spending for STDs in Richmond totals about $2.3 million, Stoll said, of which about $2 million goes for HIV drugs.