Local and Community News
Florida: Duval Chlamydia Rates Climb Sharply
February 5, 2003
Duval County rates for chlamydia ranked second and third worst among 67 Florida counties in 2000 and 2001, and highest overall for gonorrhea in 1999 and 2000. Jacksonville was one of only five U.S. cities in 2000 where gonorrhea rose by 20 percent, reporting 3,640 cases. The county, containing one-twentieth of Florida's population, accounted for one-fifth of all reinfections among adolescent males, the largest problem group.
"We are very, very concerned about what the future might hold if these trends continue to go in an upswing," CDC's Ronald Valdiserri said when numbers were released showing a national upswing in STD rates.
Yet Duval County's Prevention Services clinic in Jacksonville has few visitors. A recent University of Florida report confirms clinic visits are low because of the stigma surrounding STDs. Prevention is hampered by Duval's pockets of poverty and low education, as well as strong religious values that discourage safer sex practices.
"There is this very conservative bent here," said Kay Hood, a doctoral student who talked to clinic patients for a study on attitudes about sex among STD patients. "So there is not much tolerance for talk about anything other than abstinence."
Hood said school curricula focus on abstinence, and patients feel shame at contracting STDs. She noted that frequent condom use would help put the brakes on transmission.
Duval Public Health Director Jeffrey Goldhagen said schools need to do better at sex education, and churches and parents should also address the issue. "Schools are failing to do more not because they don't want to, but because the perceived community standards have prevented them," he said. People under age 30 account for about 80 percent of all gonorrhea and chlamydia cases in Duval County.
"People need information. Information is the key," said Frieda Saraga, education director at Planned Parenthood's Northeast Florida office. "It's up to all of us, and we're a community that doesn't like to talk about this kind of thing."
01.30.03; P. Douglas Filaroski
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.