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
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