Rise in sexually transmitted diseases in Georgia

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released preliminary national numbers for 2021, but did not release updated state data that would show Georgia’s ranking.

Delma Gomez Adisa, director of the Midtown Health Care Center for AID Atlanta, said she began noticing a sharp increase in STD cases in the middle of last year.

To manage the surge, AID Atlanta’s Office for STD Testing and Treatment has referred patients to other parts of the nonprofit health services. help.

Officials and health care workers in Georgia and elsewhere say one of the most fundamental reasons for the rise fewer people are likely to use condoms.

They suspect some have let their guard down because of better antiviral drugs to fight HIV and improved contraceptives with fewer side effects.

“We must not lose sight of condom use,” said Gomez Adisa.

Among other issues, she cites disparities in care and insurance coverage.

“People who are disproportionately affected generally tend to be patients who have limited access to health care,” she said.

Alexander Millman, medical director of the state’s DPH, suggested in an email that advances in STD surveillance have led to more cases being counted that may have been missed in the past.

But he cited several other factors, such as increasing engagement in condomless sex, less frequent testing, and difficulty in informing members of online sex networks about potential exposures. He also pointed to the stigma and lack of awareness around testing and treatment, as well as federal funding levels that for a number of years did not help maintain the public health workforce in the State at the rate of increase in STD cases.

Additional new federal funding will increase the public health workforce in Georgia, but the dollars are not permanent.

The ripple effects of COVID-19 have added new wrinkles. As health care providers turned their attention to the pandemic, some devoted fewer resources to STD screenings and some people refrained from seeking regular medical checkups.

At the same time, people likely changed their sexual behaviors during the pandemic or when concerns about COVID subsided, medical professionals say. In Georgia, the total number of reported STD cases decreased in 2020 compared to 2019, but then more than rebounded in 2021.

Leandro Mena, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in emailed statements that social and economic conditions make it harder for some populations to stay healthy.

But the increase in infections can also be attributed to the reduction of STD services at the national and local levels, the growth of substance abuse which has been linked to risky sexual behaviors and the decrease in the use condoms, especially among young people and gay and bisexual men.

The COVID pandemic and monkeypox outbreak have also added to the strain on public health personnel, according to Mena.

Preliminary 2021 figures for the United States also show that certain racial and ethnic minority groups, gay and bisexual men and young people are still disproportionately affected by higher STD rates, Mena said.

The nation needs updated ways to prevent and control infections, he said. “It’s time to innovate.”

One hope: the development of self-tests “that are as accessible and affordable as home pregnancy tests,” he says.

In the meantime, the state DPH’s Millman said Georgians should “have positive conversations about sexual health with their medical providers and partners,” get tested for STDs, and complete treatment if they don’t. they are positive.

Georgia Public Health Districts have at least one STD clinic in each county. Tests and treatments are provided on a sliding scale.

And the state is launching an educational campaign aimed at healthcare providers, reminding them that Georgia law requires that they offer to test pregnant women for syphilis and HIV in the first and third trimesters. One of the hopes is that early detection, treatment and retesting will reduce congenital syphilis in newborns, which has risen sharply in recent years.

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