Kokomo Perspective (11.15.2013)
Aids Weekly Plus
The Kokomo Perspective recently reported that gonorrhea and chlamydia were becoming more prevalent in Howard County, Ind., taxing the Howard County Health Department’s ability to provide required services. The number of reported gonorrhea cases rose from 14 in 2011 to 51 cases in 2012. Health department officials expected a higher number of diagnoses in 2013. Chlamydia diagnoses increased from 156 cases in 2011 to 182 cases in 2012.
Jennifer Sexton, public health nursing administrator, stated that although the Howard County Health Department could provide treatment for STDs, the department was unable to do screening. The county was eligible to participate in a state health department program that would supply free urine and vaginal or rectal swab collection kits for adults under age 29 who were uninsured or underinsured and had gonorrhea or chlamydia symptoms (burning, pain, and discharge). The self-collected tests would not call for an exam, but would require the local department to ship specimens to a state laboratory.
However, according to Sexton, the health department was not able to participate in this program because it currently did not have the clerical capacity to enter testing information in the database or the nursing capacity to provide counseling for people diagnosed with STDs. Sexton noted that the department averaged 20–25 calls weekly from people seeking STD testing. The department referred callers seeking testing to Indiana Health Center or the nonprofit organizations Clinic of Hope or Project: Access. Many people accessed STD testing through the hospital emergency room. Sexton estimated that the county’s actual STD prevalence was higher because exposure often occurred among those less likely to have access to healthcare.
The Howard County Council and Howard County Commissioners, which have cut the health department’s budget for the last three years, declined to add resources to cover the testing program costs.