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Gonorrhea Cases Increase in Western U.S., Could Signify Rise in HIV Cases, MMWR Study Says

March 16, 2007

The number of gonorrhea cases has increased in eight Western U.S. states, and an increase in the sexually transmitted infection often is associated with a rise in other STIs, including HIV, according to a study published in the March 15 edition of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the study, gonorrhea cases increased 42% from 2000 to 2005 in the West but decreased 10% nationwide. CDC in 2005 reported 360,000 new cases of gonorrhea nationwide, the Times reports (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 3/16). The eight states are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. The increase in gonorrhea cases was found in both men and women, as well as in people in most age and racial and ethnic groups, Bloomberg/Salt Lake Tribune reports (Brown, Bloomberg/Salt Lake Tribune, 3/15). Researchers are unsure why the STI has increased in the West but attributed the increase in part to risky sexual behaviors and methamphetamine use, according to Lori Newman, a study co-author and CDC epidemiologist (Los Angeles Times, 3/16). The study found that gonorrhea testing in the eight states increased 87% from 2000 to 2005, compared with a 14% testing increase in eight nonWestern states, which might in part explain the increased number of cases, Bloomberg/Tribune reports. Researchers called on health officials to be aware of increased gonorrhea cases and to test people with the infection every three months to prevent reinfection (Bloomberg/Salt Lake Tribune, 3/15). According to the Times, public health officials have found that some gonorrhea strains are resistant to fluoroquinolone antibiotics, which are used to treat the STI (Los Angeles Times, 3/16). In response to the study's findings, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation recently announced that it has partnered with the California STD Controllers Association and other public and community health organizations to hold a summit in June. AHF also has called for increased STI prevention and education efforts in California. "Obviously, we are troubled by the numbers that came out of this latest CDC report, particularly because of the known link between gonorrhea and an increased risk of contracting HIV," Whitney Engeran, director of prevention and testing for AHF, said, adding, "These numbers are a stark reminder that we must continue to be vigilant in requiring public health entities to more forcefully press the issue with government leaders to make [STI] prevention and education a priority" (AHF release, 3/16).

Online The study is available online.

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