Category Archives: Health Alerts

Sexual Health Experts Say STDs Are ‘Out of Control’

From Prevention.com

After being cooped up at home for a year-plus due to the pandemic, people’s ability to live at least semi-freely again has contributed to a spike in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that were already on the rise, sexual health experts say. On Monday, at a medical conference on STDs, David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, called the spike “out of control,” according to the Associated Press.

Experts said a rise in syphilis is particularly concerning, as a 26% increase was reported last year with a total of 171,074 cases, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For context, a total of 101,590 were reported in 2017. Cases of congenital syphilis, which occurs in babies delivered by people with the disease, were up to nearly 2,700 last year compared to 941 in 2017.

Read the full article.

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To find testing clinics near you (most are free) go to: gettested.cdc.gov.

Young people living with HIV face higher suicide risk

From poz.com

Adolescents and young adults who acquired HIV at birth are more likely to attempt suicide than their HIV-negative peers, according to the first study dedicated to evaluating suicide risk among youth living with HIV. Those facing stigma and other hardships in life are even more likely to try to take their lives, researchers reported last week at the 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022) in Montreal.

The unique circumstances for young people with HIV are part of a larger problem of youth suicide, which has ballooned in recent decades. Suicide is now the second most common killer of adolescents and young adults, claiming the lives of more than one in 10,000 each year.

Though suicide can affect anyone, certain experiences can heighten the risk. Among young people living with HIV, feeling stigma about their status can be associated with suicide attempts. Other hardships, like dealing with mental illness, pregnancy, a history of arrest, city stress and other negative life experiences are also associated with higher rates of suicide attempts in this group.

Read the full article on poz.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.  

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.

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.

Note that anyone who resides in Pennsylvania can get a free HIV self-test kit from www.getmyHIVtest.comwww.getmyHIVtest.com. Knowing your status will protect you and your community.

New syphilis infections at an all-time high in Pennsylvania

From outbreaknewstoday.com

Pennsylvania state health officials are reporting increased amounts of sexually transmitted infections, in particular syphilis, prompting officials to encourage the public to take steps to decrease their risk.

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Pregnant women should be screened at first and third trimester because of the sharp increase in the number of babies born with the disease in the United States. Nationally, cases of congenital syphilis increased by 185 percent between 2014 and 2018. In 2019, five congenital syphilis cases were reported in the state of Pennsylvania, following seven cases reported in 2018. These reported cases of congenital syphilis in the state represented the highest number of cases in more than 25 years.Early syphilis in Pennsylvania is currently at the highest rate in more than 20 years. Over the last five years, early syphilis reported in women of child-bearing age (women aged 15 to 44) increased 114 percent, from 78 cases in 2015 to 167 cases in 2019.

“Sexually transmitted diseases are serious diseases that impact many Pennsylvanians each year,” Acting Secretary Beam said. “It is essential that all residents are aware of the risks and dangers associated with STDs. Many of these diseases can be easily diagnosed and treated, which is why we encourage all residents to talk to their doctor about getting tested so we can further prevent diseases and keep our residents healthy.”

Read the full article.

To find local testing in your area, you can search by zip code at https://gettested.cdc.gov/. Most testing locations are free.

Get a free HIV self-test kit delivered to your home

The Pennsylvania Department of Health, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Expanded HIV Testing Initiative (PEHTI) and the HIV Prevention and Care Project (HPCP), has introduced HIV Self-Testing (HST) for individuals who reside in Pennsylvania (excluding Philadelphia County). The goal of the getmyHIVtest.com program is to help people get tested who wouldn’t otherwise go to their doctor or to a testing clinic.  

Tests are available from the website getmyhivtest.com. Individuals are asked to read the information on the website and answer a few questions in order to receive an FDA-approved, OraQuick home HIV test kit mailed to their provided address. Support for clients who request and administer the HIV self-test is available through OraQuick and the HPCP, as noted on the website.   

Individuals who reside in Philadelphia County should visit PhillyKeepOnLoving.com to order the HIV Self-test kit and for additional information about testing from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.   

If you have any questions, please send an email to info@getmyHIVtest.com.  

How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting another epidemic among teens: STDs | Expert Opinion

2020 marks the fifth consecutive year of increasing rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis in the U.S.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer

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While the eyes of the nation are on the coronavirus pandemic, another threat to public health has been steadily growing in the United States. We’ve been battling rising rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) for the last several years. In fact, 2020 marks the fifth consecutive year of increasing rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis in the U.S., due in part to significant funding cuts to more than 50% of the nation’s public health STI programs. And now the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an even greater burden on our strained public health system and supply chains, shifting focus from one major public health issue to another.

We can’t risk losing one critical resource that will be essential to ending the STI epidemic — the availability of free and confidential STI testing for adolescents. Prior to the pandemic, national public health efforts were scaling up to improve STI and HIV testing, and quickly link youth to prevention services.  Rapid identification and treatment of STIs not only has public health benefits in terms of lowering transmission, but when left untreated, STIs increase the risk of infertility, severe pelvic infection, chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy and HIV transmission.

While accounting for 25% of the population, adolescents and young adults comprise over 50% of STIs in the U.S. each year. Black, Latinx, and LGBT youth face the greatest burden of infections and risk of complications. Fortunately, significant advances have been made over the last several decades to improve rates of STI and HIV testing among adolescents and young adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends HIV screening by the age of 16-18 years for all youth regardless of their sexual activity.

Read the full article.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea have increased among younger women, study finds

From the Philadelphia Inquirer

Rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are increasing among women ages 18 to 30 in the United States, a recent study by Quest Diagnostics suggests.

The study, recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed more than 17 million laboratory samples taken between 2010 and 2017 from females ages 12 to 30. Researchers found that while there was a decline in cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea among adolescents ages 12 to 17, women of ages 25 to 30 experienced a 50% increase in positive test results. Women 18 to 24 had a 21% increase in positive test results over the period of the study.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual screenings for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among sexually active women under 25, said Harvey Kaufman, director of Quest’s Health Trends Research Program. For women 25 and older, the CDC recommends screenings only for those with specific risk factors, such as reporting that their sex partner may have a concurrent sex partner. Kaufman, a co-author of the study, said the findings suggest that sexual and contraceptive practices have changed since 2002, when the CDC guidelines were first published.

Kaufman pointed out that the CDC guidelines were largely influenced by a 1998 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that the overall rate of chlamydia among female Army recruits was 9.2%. As a result, the authors of the study recommended a screening program for female recruits 25 and under.

Read the full article. 

STDs at an all-time high in the U.S.

From Healthline.com

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show 3 sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise in the United States — and have been for the past 5 years.

In 2018, the total number of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia cases reached an all-time high since the organization began tracking the infections back in 1991, according to the report the CDC published Tuesday.

Over 1.7 million cases of chlamydia were reported last year, a 3 percent increase from 2017.

About 580,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported, which marks a 5 percent increase, along with a 14 percent spike in syphilis.

The rise in STDs has many health experts concerned, as it could have massive implications on public health.

Infertility rates could rise, and the infections could continue to contribute to a range of health issues, including strokes, meningitis, dementia, cardiovascular complications, and neurological conditions.

The mother-to-child transmission of STDs, specifically congenital syphilis, is also worrisome, as it puts the pregnancy at a higher risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, and even lifelong physical and neurological issues.

As the CDC states, it’s time to put a greater focus on the country’s STD epidemic and better manage the spread of these infections.

“You have to have a multifaceted approach to really deal with this problem, and of course they’d like to start with education — people have to understand that safe sex is still very important even in the age of antibiotics and antiretroviral drugs,” Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told Healthline.

See the full article on Healthline.com.

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Fighting HIV: Gaps in treatment, testing drive new infections

In a new report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday highlighted the gaps in access to treatment and testing resources that exists within the HIV care continuum. Those gaps have led to a halt in recent years to the progress made over the past two decades in reducing HIV infections.

An estimated 15% of people with HIV don’t know they have the virus, and that population accounted for 38% of all new infection, according to the study. Those who know their HIV status but are not receiving care make up 20% of people living with the virus but account for 43% of new infections.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the epidemic could end over the next few years by expanding access to testing and consistent treatment.