STDs are on rise, especially among black women in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS – Sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. have continued to rise for the fifth consecutive year. 

That’s according to the Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance Report published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The report sited rises in chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. 

In the report, Missouri ranked seventh in rates of gonorrhea. 

The state ranked 12th in cases of chlamydia and 11th in primary and secondary syphilis.   

Officials see the CDC report as alarming. However, it came has no surprise to St. Louisan James E. Green. 

In fact, Williams and Associates, the free health education and screening facility where Green is director of operations, has added STD treatment to their provided services list.

Before a state grant last year that allows the center to employ nurses, patients testing positive for STDs were referred to outside sources for treatment. 

Provisions of the grant mandate that the center focus on females ages 15 to 45. 

That group, Green said, has the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in St. Louis.

In its most recent five-year report, 2009-2014, the City of St. Louis Department of Health reported that the rate of chlamydia was 1,250.6 per 100,000 people. 

It also reported in 2014 that 80 percent of all youth with chlamydia, ages 13-24, were African-American.  

That same age group of African-Americans made of 88 percent of the gonorrhea cases that year, 484.2 per 100,000. 

The St. Louis Health Department stopped offering free STD treatment about 5 years ago when it moved from its longtime location in the Covenant Blu-Grand Center neighborhood. 

Green said Williams and Associates, which addresses minority health disparities, was picking up some of that slack. 

The public health center has three locations, but treatment of STDs will take place at the one situated at 3737 North Kingshighway near Natural Bridge Avenue. The facility will begin treatments starting Monday, Nov. 14. 

Green said St. Louis had always had a high rate of prevalence of the STDs cited in the CDC report. That’s just one reason the CDC’s report came as no surprise. 

“We see it every day here, so getting the report isn’t new news to us because we have people come in and test positive and we have to deal with it quite often,” Green said, adding that the report just reaffirmed what the center already knew. 

“The diseases are out there, and we need to do a real good job of making sure that the word about prevention is out there, because all this stuff is preventable. And if we can influence the behavior of our citizens, things will change; but changing behavior is a very difficult thing task,” he said.

Curbing STDs will improve the overall health of the nation and help prevent infertility, HIV and infant deaths, said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB prevention. 

“STDs can come at a high cost for babies and other vulnerable populations,” Mermin said. 

Green said that although he didn’t know why the demographic of women here represented the highest number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases, one could extrapolate. 

“Women’s anatomy is different from men’s, and it’s harder to detect; and women have lesser symptoms than men when they’re affected,” he explained. 

With men, he explained, gonorrhea and chlamydia manifest with discharge or pain upon urination. 

“But with women, it’s internal and doesn’t show up as quickly as it would with a guy,” he said. 

Data from the report suggest that multiple factors contribute to the overall increase in STDs: 

  • Drug use, poverty, stigma, and unstable housing, which can reduce access to STD prevention and care
  • Decreased condom use among vulnerable groups, including young people and gay and bisexual men
  • Cuts to STD programs at the state and local levels – in recent years, more than half of local programs have experienced budget cuts, resulting in clinic closures, reduced screening, staff loss, and reduced patient follow-up and linkage to care services. 

          Williams and Associates can be reached at 314-385-1935. The web address is www.minorityhealth.org.

Bill Beene

bill.beene@thenorthsider.com Bill Beene was born and raised in north St. Louis. He has been a journalist for 12 years. He enjoys cooking and roller skating. He lives in the historic Ville neighborhood.

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