Infections contracted within the past year in L.A. County climbed steeply in 2005.
Similarly, there has been a steady increase of Chlamydia and gonorrhea among African-American and Latina females who are disproportionately affected by these diseases. The increase in syphilis cases is likely the result of a number of factors according to Dr. Peter R. Kerndt, MD, Director of the L.A. County STD Program. "To some extent, our efforts to increase syphilis testing — through our media campaign 'Stop the Sores,' better STD testing access, and increased screening in the men's jail in 2005, has increased our ability to find cases resulting in a greater number of reported cases."
Kerndt adds that positive efforts alone do not explain the substantial increase and there are continuing factors to the increase including unprotected sex by individuals with HIV, use of the Internet to make a large number of sexual contacts in a short time, and use of methamphetamine and other drugs, which can reduce safer sex behaviors. "As syphilis increases among women, we must expand awareness of syphilis and other STDs in that population, and among their health care providers."
The County has also supported several media campaigns designed to boost awareness of the rise in syphilis cases and to promote testing, including Stop the Sores, implemented from June 2002 through June 2005. Two studies have shown increased awareness in the gay community in L.A. County and to a significant increase in syphilis testing among those who were exposed to the campaign. The County also supported and collaborated in the development of in SPOTLA.org, a website to help individuals with syphilis and other STDs to notify their sex partners, thereby facilitating early STD detection and treatment.
Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health and comprises more than 3,800 employees with an annual budget exceeding $700 million.