August 25, 2010
Rates of reported chlamydia among city women ages 15-19 last year equate to about one of every 10 having the STD, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Reported gonorrhea cases are up 26 percent for the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2009, leading PDPH to issue an advisory. Syphilis cases also have doubled among some youth in the last three years.
The STD rates among teens could reflect the city's intensive testing program, said Melinda Salmon, the department's STD control program manager. Philadelphia began offering STD screening in public high schools in 2003.
"Once a disease gets introduced into a population, it can be very difficult to break the cycle of infection," said Salmon. "We've certainly found and treated a lot of infected kids, and that's very important. We've also educated a huge number of kids, and while it's hard to quantify, we can't discount the impact that's making."
Each week, STD/HIV counselor Alexis Bridges from the Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Program (YOACAP) performs outreach in high-risk neighborhoods. In a program cosponsored by PDPH, Bridges and other counselors distribute condoms and offer on-site STD testing.
"Most of the younger folks, we've built up a rapport in the neighborhoods. They know us," said Tony Lloyd, a YOACAP counselor and phlebotomist who administers the tests. "People used to get leery. Now they know us and they'll come up and ask for condoms or tests without engagement from us."
YOACAP screens about nine people on a typical evening and delivers STD results over the phone. HIV test results are given in person only.