July 7, 2009
While HIV may take the spotlight in terms of media coverage and attention to sexual health, other STDs deserve equal consideration, says Dr. John Toney, a professor at the University of South Florida College of Medicine's infectious-diseases division. STD prevention and control efforts face similar challenges to those reported by Polk County HIV/AIDS outreach workers, he said.
"We still have issues in the United States talking about sexuality," said Toney, who is also affiliated with the Southeast Regional STD-HIV Prevention Training Center in Tampa. "There are beliefs we have to look at."
Almost half of new STD infections are in people ages 15-24, with chlamydia skyrocketing and syphilis making inroads, especially among men. STDs cost the US health system as much as $15.3 billion a year, CDC estimates.
People infected with gonorrhea or syphilis are two to five times more likely than those uninfected to contract HIV sexually, according to CDC. Syphilis and herpes can produce sores and ulcers that make it easier to acquire HIV. "You need less virus to cause an infection," Toney said. Gonorrhea and chlamydia can also make it easier to contract HIV.
In 2006, African-American women were 16 times more likely to have syphilis than white women, 15 times more likely to have gonorrhea and seven times more likely to have chlamydia, according to the Black AIDS Institute's "State of AIDS in Black America 2009" report. In 2007, black teens ages 15-19 had the highest rate of chlamydia of any group.
The Tampa center, which trains health care providers in diagnosing, treating, and managing STDs and HIV, is supported by CDC and the Hillsborough County Health Department.