LOS ANGELES -- In response to the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calling attention to the 50 percent increase in gonorrhea rates in California, the California STD Controllers Association is calling for a statewide summit and an immediate increase in state and federal resources to support expanded screening and treatment efforts. Those gonorrhea increases are particularly concerning because untreated gonorrhea can cause infertility and increase the spread of HIV infection. Many cases of gonorrhea occur in persons who don't know they are infected. Regular testing in sexually active persons is critical to detect those infections.
Peter Kerndt, president of the association, said, "Cities and counties don't have the resources to control STDs by themselves. We've mobilized our communities, and done our part. But we need help from the state and federal government."
The report, "Increases in Gonorrhea Incidence Rates Eight Western States, 2000-2005," was published in the CDC's weekly bulletin, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and is available online at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr. Kerndt pointed to the declining numbers of disease investigation specialists (DIS), the public health frontline workers. In 1994, the state had 23 positions supported by the federal government -- today, that number has fallen to just three. Many DIS provided critical safety net services such as treatment follow-up, partner services, surveillance activities, and outbreak response.
CSTDCA has called for an immediate five-fold increase in the number of DIS staff, as well as a rapid assessment of the resources needed to provide a complete and comprehensive strategy against STDs.
"For too long, STD program budgets have been cut, cut, cut and cut again, we just don't have enough for basic education, testing and treatment," said Jeffrey D. Klausner, secretary and president-elect of the association, and director of San Francisco's STD Control Section. "All Californians -- regardless of age, gender, country of origin, and sexual orientation -- deserve much better and an equal opportunity for good sexual health. Californians need access to STD prevention education, condoms, testing, treatment and care."
Klausner added that a summit with public and community partners was being planned for June, but that the recent MMWR confirmed the need "to move decisively and quickly."
The association also expressed its concern about a lack of new drugs to treat gonorrhea. "California was one of the first states recently to stop treating gonorrhea with certain antibiotics like cipro, because gonorrhea had already developed resistance," explained Kerndt. "But pharmaceutical companies won't invest in developing new drugs because, unlike AIDS, there's no substantial profit to be made. But unless the government steps
in and either contracts for drug development or puts pressure on them, we'll all suffer."
Source: California STD Controllers Association