Category Archives: Health Alerts

Health Alert: If you’re sexually active, get a full screening for sexually transmitted infections

The CDC is reporting the number of new sexually transmitted infections continues to go up, with the highest number of STIs in the U.S. ever.

The newly released CDC 2020 STD Surveillance Report found that at the end of 2020:

  • Reported cases of gonorrhea and primary & secondary (P&S) syphilis were up 10% and 7%, respectively, compared to 2019.
  • Syphilis among newborns (i.e., congenital syphilis) also increased, with reported cases up nearly 15% from 2019, and 235% from 2016Early data indicate primary and secondary syphilis and congenital syphilis cases continued to increase in 2021 as well.

As a result, the CDC is recommending that anyone who is sexually active get a full screening for STIs. To find local testing clinics near you, go to https://gettested.cdc.gov/. Most clinics are free.

To find out how to prevent STIs, you can go to the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/default.htm.

Doctors Haven’t Seen So Many Cases of This STD in 72 Years

From hivplugmag.com

Syphilis bottomed out in the U.S. in the late 1990s, with the CDC hoping to fully eradicate the disease. Only years later, syphilis rates would start rising; by 2021, more than 52,000 cases were reported.

Many factors could be at play, but officials believe the COVID pandemic is mostly at fault. Testing and treatment took a backseat during the worst days of the crisis in 2020, while many people now feel sexually unshackled with COVID vaccines available, lockdowns over, and mask mandates lifted. Some health officials are calling for public messaging about condoms. Monkeypox, which exploded this year and last, is also complicating efforts and eating up health funding from the government.

The CDC’s Leandro Mena, who made the announcement about STDs at a Monday speech, is calling for swift action. One of his ideas is widely available home-test kits for STDs, akin to the COVID tests common today. Mena also called for battling stigma — ostensibly through public relations, marketing, or public service announcements — and increased testing and treatment.

Read the full article. Find out more about the rise of STDs on the CDC Website. To find local STD testing, go to https://gettested.cdc.gov

Universities create special HIV testing initiative to provide free HIV self-test kits to PA residents

According to a 2020 CDC report, out of more than 30,000 new cases of HIV infection in the United States, Black and Latinx populations bear the brunt of being most at risk, accounting for two-thirds (20,000) of the new infections. The reason (the CDC also reports) is due to institutionalized health disparities among those groups. In other words, Black and Latinx people face higher levels of discrimination when seeking health care.

To help address the issue, the HIV Prevention and Care Project at the University of Pittsburgh, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Expanded HIV Testing Initiative at Penn State University created a state-wide program that allows residents of Pennsylvania to obtain a free HIV self-test kit through the mail.

Ora Quick test kit image
The free test kits use an oral swab and you get results in 20 minutes

Knowing your HIV status is the first step in preventing the spread of the virus. People who test positive can obtain treatment that keeps the virus in check, and therefore makes it next to impossible to spread to others.

To obtain a free HIV self-test kit, go to www.getmyHIVtest.com. Taking care of your health is part of taking care of your community.

To find out more about the free HIV test kit program, and find other HIV/STI testing resources, you can go to the HIV Prevention and Care Project Website at https://hivpreventionandcareproject.com/resources/. If you still have questions, send an email to info@getmyHIVtest.com.

Health Alert – Cases of monkeypox reported in U.S. 

Cases of monkeypox have been identified in travelers from countries where the disease is considered an endemic. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Health Advisory in the United States.

As of June 3rd, 21 cases in the U.S. have been confirmed or suspected, including one case in Pennsylvania. As per the State Department of Health, there is a possibility the disease may spread.

monkey pox virus illastration

Monkeypox symptoms involve a characteristic rash, preceded by a fever, swelling of the lymph nodes, and other non-specific symptoms such as malaise, headache, and muscle aches. In the most recent reported cases, symptoms included lesions in the genital and anal regions. Note that the disease may be confused with more commonly seen infections like syphilis, chancroid, and herpes. The average incubation period for symptom to develop is 5 to 21 days. 

Human-to-human transmission occurs through large respiratory droplets and by bodily fluids (like saliva and semen that can be transmission during sex) or coming in direct contact with a lesion. Respiratory droplets generally cannot travel more than a few feet, so prolonged face-to-face contact (like kissing) is more likely to spread the disease.

There is no specific treatment for monkeypox virus infection. However, the CDC reports that antivirals used to treat smallpox may prove beneficial. Monkeypox is generally mild and patients recover in a few weeks. The mortality rate is less than 1 percent in developed countries. There have been no deaths related to the monkeypox cases in the US so far.

There are FDA approved vaccines available to prevent monkeypox but these are not commercially available but are being made available to close contacts of known cases.

If you think you may be infected, contact your doctor’s office or local hospital first, for instructions. Going into your doctor’s office, or an emergency room, risks spreading the disease.

For more information about monkeypox, you can go to the CDC’s Health Advisory page. (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/monkeypox) 

May 19th is National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

From HIV.gov

May 19th is National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This observance, led by the San Francisco Community Health Center, raises awareness of the impact of HIV and AIDS, risk, and stigma surrounding HIV in the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community.

National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV Awareness Day logo

In recent years, annual HIV diagnoses have increased among some in the API community, such as API young adults and men who have sex with men. Knowing your status gives you powerful information so that you can take steps to lower your HIV risk and take charge of your health. Use the HIV Testing Sites & Care Services Locator to find a clinic near you or select from the self-testing options available.
In addition, the CDC Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign offers resources that promote testing and treatment for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.

Read the full article on HIV.gov.

Editors note: People who reside in Pennsylvania can get a free HIV self-test kit through the mail. Go to www.getmyHIVtest.com to order yours today.

COVID 19 Impact: Cases of Gonorrhea, syphilis, and Congenital Syphilis Surpass 2019 Levels

From medical.net

Reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States decreased during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but most resurged by the end of that year. Ultimately, reported cases of gonorrhea, syphilis, and congenital syphilis surpassed 2019 levels, while chlamydia declined, according to new data published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data provide the clearest picture yet of COVID-19’s impact on the U.S. STD epidemic.

The newly released 2020 STD Surveillance Report found that at the end of 2020:

  • Reported cases of gonorrhea and primary & secondary (P&S) syphilis were up 10% and 7%, respectively, compared to 2019.
  • Syphilis among newborns (i.e., congenital syphilis) also increased, with reported cases up nearly 15% from 2019, and 235% from 2016. Early data indicate primary and secondary syphilis and congenital syphilis cases continued to increase in 2021 as well.
  • Reported cases of chlamydia declined 13% from 2019.

Chlamydia historically accounts for the largest proportion of reported STDs in the United States. The decline in reported chlamydia cases is likely due to decreased STD screening and underdiagnosis during the pandemic, rather than a reduction in new infections. This also contributed to an overall decrease in the number of reported STDs in 2020 (from 2.5 million reported cases in 2019 to 2.4 million in 2020).

Read the full article.

S.T.I.s Are on the Rise, Still

From the New York Times

Rates of many sexually transmitted infections continued to climb during the first year of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement posted to its website on Tuesday. While overall there were 2.4 million infections recorded in 2020, down from a record high of 2.6 million in 2019, diagnosed cases of certain sexually transmitted diseases surged.

Cases of congenital syphilis, which occurs in newborns who contract the disease from their mothers, reached the highest numbers in 26 years, rising by 235 percent since 2016. Rates of primary and secondary syphilis rose by 7 percent from 2019 to 2020; gonorrhea cases rose by 10 percent in the same time period.

Read the full article on the New York Times Website.

Highest rates of syphilis infection in 30 years says PA Health Department

The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently reported that during 2021, the state (outside of Philadelphia) experienced a 28% increase in early syphilis—going from 1,105 cases reported in 2020 to 1,418 cases reported in 2021. The latest numbers are the highest infection rates of early syphilis cases in more than 30 years.

Of the early syphilis cases reported in women, 90% were of child-bearing age—which presents a unique danger of congenital syphilis, where the infection can be passed on from mother to child during pregnancy.

As a result, health officials are strongly encouraging all sexually active men and women to get tested.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex. Syphilis can also be spread during pregnancy to the unborn child, and by sharing intravenous needles. Syphilis is easily cured if caught in the early stages of infection but, because symptoms can be mild, it’s possible to have it and not know. Testing is the only way to verify infection.

Ask  your doctor about getting tested for syphilis. If you don’t have a doctor or prefer a nearby confidential clinic, enter your zip code at https://gettested.cdc.gov/ (to refine your search, select “syphilis testing” under “filter results”). Most testing clinics are free.

To find out more about syphilis, you can go to the CDC information page at https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/default.htm.

 

 

 

Erie County Department of Health: Historic increase in new Syphilis infections

Erie County Department of Health is reporting a record-breaking increase in new Syphilis infections in the county — 41 cases in 2021. That’s an increase of 310% from the previous year. Most new infections were among people under the age of 30. Men accounted for 78% of the new infections and 22% were women. As a result, health officials are strongly encouraging all sexually active county residents to get tested.

Erie County Health Department building
Erie County Health Department (https://eriecountypa.gov/departments/health/)

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex. Syphilis can also be spread during pregnancy to the unborn child, and by sharing intravenous needles. Syphilis is easily cured if caught in the early stages of infection but, because symptoms can be mild, it’s possible to have it and not know. Testing is the only way to verify infection.

To find out where you can get free testing, enter your zip code at https://gettested.cdc.gov/ (under Filter Results, select “syphilis testing”). To find out more about syphilis, you can go to the CDC information page at https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/default.htm.

Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

From POZ Magazine online…

Black woman and man standing together
“Let’s Stop HIV Together” campaign that promotes NBHAAD at https://www.cdc.gov/stophivtogether/index.html

Monday, February 7, marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) 2022. By numerous measures, Black Americans are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic. NBHAAD highlights related challenges while raising awareness about prevention, testing, treatment and more.

“This #NBHAAD we are focused on equity,” tweeted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of HIV Prevention, adding: “We must end unequal access to #HIV prevention & care, & address root causes that contribute to disparities in HIV such as poverty, stigma, systemic racism, & unequal access to healthcare & education.”

In 2020, African Americans represented 12% of the U.S. population age 13 and older but accounted for 43% of new HIV diagnoses, according to AIDSVu.org, which analyzes HIV data and creates related infographics and interactive maps.

Disproportionate HIV rates are more pronounced in the South, where in 2020, Black Americans accounted for 52% of new HIV diagnoses but made up only 19% of the population in that region.

See the full article.