Pennslyvania: STDs Hit Blacks Hard; Health Department Officials Look for a New Strategy to Fight the Problem
May 15, 2009
The Allegheny County Health Department on Wednesday held a conference in Oakland to discuss the county's STD numbers and develop ways to reduce the disproportionate number of cases in the African-American community. "There are disparities, but not to the magnitude of cities in other parts of the country, including the Eastern seaboard," said Dr. Bruce Dixon, the department's director. "We have an opportunity in Allegheny County to do something about it."
Though they represent just 13.5 percent of the county's population, African Americans last year comprised more than 50 percent of county syphilis cases (49/89). Also in 2008, blacks accounted for 52 of 92 HIV/AIDS cases, about 1,585 of 2,164 gonorrhea cases, and 3,070 of 5,206 chlamydia cases.
Statewide, African Americans comprise 10 percent of the population, while accounting for about 52 percent of chlamydia cases, 65 percent of gonorrhea cases, and 51 percent of syphilis cases. These disparities can be addressed with screening and education, especially in schools, and outreach to high-risk adults, say state health and CDC officials.
High-risk minorities remain isolated and largely ignored by the health system, said Dr. Walter Smith, executive director of Family Resources of Allegheny County. As a result, tapping into social networks is necessary to break through barriers of poverty, isolation, and mistrust, Smith said.
"This is really complex and really difficult and not as simple as it might seem to design a program to reach persons of highest risk," Smith said. "The people at highest risk are the most socially and emotionally isolated, and they are suspicious. There is an increased rate of STD in their community? Surprise! Surprise! We're not reaching them."
05.14.2009; David Templeton
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.