Local News

Durham battling spike in STDs with information

Posted April 17, 2014

— Durham County public health officials are hitting the streets to educate people about sexually transmitted diseases, following an increase in the number of local cases of HIV and syphilis.

From 2011 to 2013, syphilis cases have doubled in Durham, to 46, while HIV has risen 24 percent, to 98. HIV cases have also jumped in Wake, Orange and Mecklenberg counties in recent years, according to health officials.

"An increase (of) 20 cases may not seem significant, but it is a lifelong illness," said Dr. Arlene Sena, medical and laboratory director for the Durham County Public Health Department.

Sena said several reasons might account for the rise in STDs, from less public health funding to more doctors reporting cases. Still, the department wants to turn the tide on the problem.

"Any crack corners or porches, you'll find us," public health educator Dennis Hamlet said.

Hamlet and others are finding new ways to reach out to the public with information and testing, from visiting local nightclubs to barbershops.

"We go in there to educate them, provide them with condoms, and if they want to get tested, they can get tested," he said.

Samuel Jenkins now keeps his Angier Avenue barbershop stocked with condoms after public health officials suggested it.

"It's only a few barbers left who will put their jar out and pass out condoms," Jenkins said. "If a person wanted to be tested, they'll take them in the back. They do privacy testing."

The public health department also has hired a disease intervention specialist to help bring the STD rate down. She plans to focus on interviewing HIV and syphilis patients and help track down people to whom they may have spread the disease.


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