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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

Syphilis on Rise in New Mexico


Associated Press (09.01.03) - Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Offering food, cash and other freebies, public health workers set up an RV in downtown Albuquerque and waited for people to show up for syphilis tests.

In the past few years, New Mexico has seen a steady rise in syphilis. Though the numbers are not high, the increase is. The state reported about 20 syphilis cases in 1999. Last year, 63 were reported. In the first six months of 2003, 47 cases were reported, according to Al Chowning, STD program manager for the state Department of Health.

Dr. Bruce Trigg, medical director of STD programs for the Albuquerque public health office, said the majority of cases in the state are among prostitutes and IV drug users. American Indian cases in the first six months of 2003 already equal the total for all of last year, said Chowning. Bernalillo, San Juan and McKinley counties have seen the largest syphilis increases in 2002 and for the first half of this year.

Rather than wait for people to come to clinics, public health workers are hitting the streets and teaming up with local agencies that can help them reach those most at risk. In Albuquerque, public health workers targeted prostitutes for testing, and they traveled to Farmington, Bloomfield, Gallup and Shiprock to test alcoholics and drug addicts.

In the RV in Albuquerque one night, public health workers not only did a brisk business in syphilis tests, but also vaccinated people for hepatitis A and B and offered tests for hepatitis C.

Syphilis test results usually take around 20 minutes to show results. To keep people around that long, the workers offered a $10 payment at the end and handed out food and other giveaways.


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