The California Assembly Health Committee, chaired by 52nd District Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, recently held an informational hearing on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The purpose of the hearing was to provide lawmakers and the public with updated information about STDs, to highlight alarming increases in STD rates in California, and to consider strategies for addressing the epidemic.
In his opening remarks, Assemblyman Dymally said that the data are striking. At least one in three sexually active Americans will have contracted an STD by age 24. And there are disproportionately high STD rates among minorities, especially African Americans. .
In addition, African Americans chlamydia infection rate is eight times that of whites, and African Americans gonorrhea rate is 11 times that of whites; Latinos and Native Americans are also at much higher risk for STDs than whites; and; Increasing numbers of gonorrhea cases are antibiotic-resistant. He reported noting that the condition poses a serious threat to all Californians.
The hearing highlighted the eight most common infections that are spread by sexual contact in the United States which includes; Gonorrhea; Syphilis; Chlamydia; Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS);Human Papilloma Virus (HPV); Genital herpes; Trichomoniasis (trich); and, Hepatitis B.
Because STDs often do not show symptoms, people often do not realize they are infected and therefore do not seek testing and treatment or take precautions to prevent giving the infections to their partners. Also, when STDs show not symptoms, the infections remain unknown to health officials.
Witnesses at the hearing included Dr. Mark Horton, State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health (DPH), and the chiefs of the DPH Division of Communicable Disease Control and Office of AIDS.
DPH provided testimony on the increasing incidence of STDs, who is at greatest risk, and what DPH currently does to control STDs. Representatives of the California Conference of Local Health Officers and the STD Controllers Association discussed causes of the epidemic, what is now being done, and what needs to be done to bring STDs under control.
Researchers from the University of California and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science discussed current research on STDs and how to better control STDs. Physicians and health care agencies such as Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and the Family Health Council provided testimony about the services they offer and the effects of STDs. Finally, advocates highlighted innovative and effective programs to reduce the burden of STDs.
California now spends about 37 cents per resident on STD prevention and control. Budget constraints over many decades have eroded STD prevention and control services and contributed to increases in the most common and preventable STDs. The health consequences of STDs can be significant. For example, chlamydia infections cause female and male infertility and increase the likelihood that a person will also become infected with HIV.
It was reported that the Harbor Freeway corridor in South Los Angeles has some of the highest HIV/AIDS and other STD infection rates in the state.
For more information about STDs, individuals are urged to contact their local health department, school clinics, or Dymallys Assembly Office in Compton at (310) 223-1201.