Health partnership works to cut STD cases

Mar. 26, 2013 @ 05:24 AM

A partnership aimed at reducing Guilford County’s sexually-transmitted disease rate is one way health officials are trying to improve the county’s health score in a national ranking.
Triad counties ranged from 8th to 56th in a new study that again ranks Wake County as the healthiest county in North Carolina in 2012.  
In the Triad, Davie County ranked number 8, Guilford County number 13, Forsyth was in at 28.  Davidson County was 56th, down from 50th.
Guilford, which has been troubled by high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, dropped to 13th from 9th in 2011. The health department has worked with other partner groups to provide sexual health education and testing for HIV prevention counseling and testing and syphilis screening services.
Although the syphilis case load is down from the 400 posted in the 1990s, health department leaders acknowledged earlier this year that they have a way to go to improve. In 2011, the county was third in the state with 195 cases of HIV and 115 of syphilis.
The partner groups offer free tests and screening to people who have no insurance and no primary physician.
“These rates are coming down,” said Dennis Jenkins Sr., non-traditional testing coordinator for the Guilford County Department of Public Health. “We offer tests outside working hours of the health department. This is a way for these people to get tested. But we still need to break the transmission of these diseases in the social networks where it spreads.”
In the first quarter of this year, the HIV positivity rate was down to 1.2 percent at the clinics and the positivity rate for new infections was .7 percent.  The overall positive rate for gonorrhea also was  1.2 percent, but 10 percent for Chlamydia.
Testing is important, experts say, because one if five persons infected with HIV is unaware of the infection. Most of the people tested are males from 18 to 34  years old and most are African-American.  Many patients are referred to treatments. The agencies offer screenings at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and in neighborhoods in High Point and Greensboro.
The groups also offer a personal touch. 
“We have a specialist to help those who have acute cases of HIV to get to treatment at the Chapel Hill medical center,” Jenkins said.
The county-by-county health report, released recently by the University of Wisconsin, ranks counties nationwide by factors such as smoking, drinking, motor vehicle fatalities, premature death, sexually-transmitted diseases, the number of physicians and dentists in a county, socio-economic factors and the physical environment are considered. 
Davidson County was ranked less healthy than most counties of similar size and population, including Iredell (21), Alamance (31), and Randolph (36).

Community Help

Screenings:  Nia Community Action Center, Piedmont Health Services and Sickle Cell Agency and Triad Health Project help provide a comprehensive network of sexual health education and HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing in Guilford County.