Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (03.18.13)
According to Harold Wiesenfeld, an obstetrician/gynecologist and director of the Allegheny County, Pa., Health Department STD Program, the county’s number of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis cases has increased. Statistics show a 6-percent increase in chlamydia cases in 2012 compared to 2011 and a 22-percent increase in gonorrhea and syphilis. Numbers for HIV and AIDS cases reported in 2012 have not been reported. Wiesenfeld was concerned that STD numbers were still too high in Allegheny County and the nation and that STD rates in the African-American community were too high. However, Wiesenfeld also was not sure if the data means that that there are more people with the diseases or whether the increase reflects better testing and more widespread screening of at-risk individuals. The county and state health departments held a conference with experts and representatives of health and human service agencies earlier this month.
In 2010, CDC updated treatment guidelines to call for more STD screenings and more individual screenings. Also, new recommendations are expected from the US Preventive Services Task Force that would approve routine HIV screening of all adults and teenagers so that individuals who test positive can begin early treatment. Wiesenfeld hoped that new HIV screening guidelines would reduce the stigma associated with testing. He noted that local health officials were trying to counteract the stigma of STD testing.
Wiesenfeld explained that although not life-threatening, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause serious problems in women such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and pelvic pain. However, these STDs may be asymptomatic in women and can be transmitted unknowingly. He said that young women ages 15 to 19 have the highest rates of testing positive for chlamydia and gonorrhea and that it sets them at risk for complications later. Wiesenfeld commented that the numbers for chlamydia and gonorrhea were too high and that they needed to do better and reduce the burden of STDs in the community.