Fayetteville Observer (09.04.2013)
North Carolina’s Cumberland County Health Department and its community partners reported they were struggling to meet growing needs for STD and HIV prevention education, testing, and treatment services. Although the county’s STD incidence began to decline in 2007, the number of new diagnoses sharply increased from 2010 to 2011, according to North Carolina Division of Public Health data. Cumberland County reported 1,479 new gonorrhea cases in 2011 and it ranked third in in the state for new chlamydia diagnoses in 2011, with 3,600 new cases. New HIV cases increased to 97 in 2011 after a four-year decline, and syphilis increased from 18 diagnoses annually between 2007 and 2009 to 37 new cases each year in 2010 and 2011.
Dr. Lan Tran-Phu, medical director for the health department, attributed the incidence increase to three factors. The county saw a large transient population due to the constant movement of troops through Fort Bragg. In addition, Tran-Phu stated that more young people had become sexually active, but were not receiving in-depth prevention messages. Finally, although health department disease intervention specialists emphasize community outreach and reporting test results to community members, shrinking funding has hampered their efforts.
The North Carolina General Assembly recently voted to cut AIDS drug assistance funding by $8 million, which could mean that newly diagnosed HIV patients would go on waiting lists for HIV care and medications. According to Dr. Danielle Thomas-Taylor, medical director for specialty medicine at Fayetteville’s Southern Regional Area Health Education Center, the cost of HIV care and medications for one patient was approximately $42,000.
Cumberland County Health Educator Phyllis McLymore reported that while many young people associated pregnancy with unprotected sex, they had misconceptions about HIV and STD transmission. Other health educators reported that people failed to seek HIV testing because of stigma and fear of knowing their status.