Sacramento Bee (07.19.2013)
In 2012, Sacramento County registered the third highest gonorrhea rate among California’s 58 counties, and the fourth highest chlamydia and syphilis rates. The county also reported approximately 10,000 STD cases. State officials explained that new cases have increased since 2008 due to budget cuts that reduced their ability to track STD sources, thus affecting their prevention efforts. Also, they believed that smartphones were making it easier for young people to meet and have sex.
State data indicate that Sacramento County’s chlamydia rates increased by 27 percent and its gonorrhea rates increased by 8 percent from 2008 to 2011; syphilis rates increased by 16 percent from 2010 to 2011. Youth ages 15–29 have been hardest hit. According to Dr. Miriam Shipp, Sacramento County’s STD controller, the crisis was statewide, nationwide, and even international. Nearby El Dorado, Placer, and Yolo counties also had increases of the same three diseases in 2012, but their totals were significantly lower than Sacramento’s.
The public health department has planned a prevention campaign to provide free STD test kits to women younger than 25 who request them. The department will mail the test to a residence and allow the recipient to check for the results on the Internet. The county also provides free condoms by mail when it receives requests via www.teensource.org. However, none of these efforts has reduced STD rates.
Dr. Cassius Lockett, Sacramento County’s chief epidemiologist, noted that STDs generally affected individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, those who do not use condoms consistently, and individuals living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. He mentioned that African Americans were four times more likely than whites to contract chlamydia and that the disease most affected young African-American women. State officials traced the prevalence of STDs in the county by ZIP code, ethnicity, age, and gender; results showed higher figures in south Sacramento, Oak Park, Florin, and Del Paso Heights. When Lockett mapped clinic locations that screened and treated STDs, he found most of these clinics downtown, where there are fewer STD cases.
According to Raquel Simental, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, Sacramento had no state- or federally funded STD prevention program. Planned Parenthood runs an education program in schools to teach the dangers of unsafe sex, and will go to any classroom that welcomes them, but Simental noted that more needs to be done to reach sexually active youth.