Online Athens (Georgia) (03.02.13)
Based on CDC surveillance data, Georgia ranked fourth in the United States for the number of syphilis cases in 2011. The state has some of the worst rates in the country for other STDs as well, ranking seventh for gonorrhea and eighth for chlamydia. According to Lynn Beckmann, the Georgia Department of Public Health’s District 10 infectious diseases program coordinator, Georgia has long ranked at or near the fourth spot nationally for number of syphilis cases. Beckmann commented that, although many think of the disease as something that has gone away, it is very much present and has not been eliminated.
Although the northeast Georgia region does not have the highest rates statewide, the area has seen increased numbers of late syphilis cases throughout the years. Beckmann surmises that Georgia continually ranks high in cases because the disease is not painful and symptoms go away, causing individuals to dismiss the symptoms when they arise. In addition, due to the subject matter of STD programs, the programs are often the first to be eliminated in times of budgetary cuts due to a lack of support. Beckmann stresses that all of District 10’s programs are still in place, but visits to the region’s clinics are not free. Beckmann believes the fees could be deterrents for some from getting tested, and noted that there were circumstances where some of the fees might be waived.
The Syphilis Elimination Program based in Atlanta attempts to identify sexual partners of those who test positive for syphilis so that they might be tested and treated if necessary. However, this program only works if individuals can identify their sexual partners. Beckman’s advice for the public includes being personally responsible for who they are sexually active with, being sure that they are free from STDs through testing, and taking precautions such as wearing condoms. For further information about STDs, testing, and counseling, visit www.publichealthathens.com/clarke_county.htm or call (706) 389–6921.