Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Fresno County health report: STDs “entrenched” and “persistent”

Fresno County health officials have a new communicable disease report that gives a glimpse into the health of residents — and the biggest area of concern revolves around sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Despite prevention efforts, rates for sexually transmitted diseases continue to increase, including those for chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV, as well as hepatitis B and C, according to the report.
Here’s some of the numbers from the report:

— The five-year average for HIV cases is 64 per year. In 2011, there were 111 new cases — a 73% increase over a five-year baseline.

And of concern was an increasing trend in cases among Hispanic males and a continuing disproportionate number of black males diagnosed with the disease, the report said.

A possible factor in the increased rate of HIV infections — closure of the county’s HIV/STD clinic in 2010 due to budget cuts, the report said. The clinic was serving 61 patients when it closed.

— Fresno County is one of the top five counties in the state for rates of clyamydia infections from year to year — and that trend isn’t changing, the report said.

Gonorrhea also continues to be a problem in the community. “STDs appear to be entrenched in the community” and “the persistence of STDs is established and needs to be addressed to bring down the rate,” according to the report prepared by Jared Rutledge, the county’s epidemiologist.

The report includes recommendations for addressing STD problems, such as improving outreach to teenagers, collaboration with community-based organizations for education and encouraging doctors to have candid discussions with patients about prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

The county has not had a communicable disease annual report in several years, and officials said they hope to have one annually from here out.

The report not only helps public health workers identify health issues, but it gives community-based organizations a blueprint, said David Luchini, assistant director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health. “It helps them if they go after grants.”

The document also can help the county explain why it is spending taxpayers’ money. “We want to be able to say how we spend our dollars most effectively in public health,” said Joe Prado, division manager for community health.

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