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U.S. News

Alabama: STDs Have Stronghold in Deep South

July 31, 2008

Amid a growing HIV epidemic in the South, public health experts are also focusing their attention on the region's historically high STD rates.

At a recent Southern AIDS Coalition meeting in Birmingham, Dr. Jane R. Schwebke, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, noted that STDs often make HIV transmission easier and infection more likely. Some STDs cause ulcers in and around sex organs. For persons co-infected with HIV, these ulcers become "little factories for HIV," facilitating the virus' transmission to others, she said.

For an HIV-negative person, these STD ulcers provide entry sites for HIV, said Schwebke. In addition, inflammation from non-ulcerative STDs increases the concentration of cells in genital secretions that can serve as targets for HIV. That is one reason health officials are worried about the ongoing syphilis outbreak in Jefferson County.

Craig Thompson, a Mississippi public health authority, said that despite the South's high STD rates, the topic is rarely discussed. "South of the Mason-Dixon Line, we don't talk about things that happen south of the belt-buckle line," he told the conference.

CDC data show that in 2006, Alabama had the nation's second-highest rate of syphilis, the fifth-highest rate of chlamydia, and the fourth-highest rate of gonorrhea.

Back to other news for July 2008

Adapted from:
Birmingham News
07.28.2008; Dave Parks

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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