Raleigh scores poorly on cities with highest STD rates

RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- This is one Top 10 list Raleigh won't brag about.

The city has earned the dubious distinction, according to one national study, as having the 10th highest STD rate in the country.

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The silver lining? Raleigh isn't the worst city in the state for STD rates - that would be Charlotte, which ranks No. 2 in the nation, second only to New Orleans.

April is Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month, so North Carolina health officials are using this month to encourage North Carolinians to get tested and protect themselves.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human services also released new numbers showing an increase in some sexually transmitted diseases in the state.

According to preliminary data:

  • An estimated 36,800 people live with HIV in North Carolina, with approximately 3,400 unaware of their infection.

  • Congenital syphilis, a preventable type of syphilis passed from the mother to a child during pregnancy, has increased by 63 percent from 2015. OB-GYNs and hospitals are encouraged to review the North Carolina syphilis testing guidelines and test all pregnant women for syphilis at every trimester.

  • The number of people newly diagnosed with syphilis was similar in 2015 and 2016, offering hope that there might be an end to a trend of increasing diagnoses that started in 2013.

  • Young women between 15 and 24 years old have the highest number of reported chlamydia cases. Untreated chlamydia can lead to severe health outcomes, including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. Sexually active teens and young adults should be screened at least annually for chlamydia.

"Sexually transmitted diseases can affect anyone, so it's important to know how to protect yourself," said Jacquelyn Clymore, HIV/STD/Hepatitis Director in the Communicable Disease Branch of the North Carolina Division of Public Health. "We encourage individuals to have an open dialogue with their health-care provider about getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV."

On the increase in HIV, Clymore notes that they've seen an increase of fewer than 100 cases in the past three years. She also explains that the 63 percent increase in congenital syphilis represents 11 cases in 2015 going up to 18 cases in 2016.

"We're not talking about hundreds of babies, but this is an entirely preventable sexually transmitted disease and it's an entirely preventable condition for infants so we should be having zero cases of congenital syphilis," Clymore said.

"Young women account for more than half of the chlamydia cases in North Carolina," said Elizabeth Finley, addressing the new chlamydia statistics.

Finley is the director of strategic communications with SHIFT NC, an organization that focuses on teen health.

She said there are 25,600 cases of chlamydia in that age group.

"Young people in general tend to be more at risk for STDs like chlamydia because preventing them is so reliant on testing, and young people don't always know how to go about getting testing and treatment," Finley said. "We do see a disproportionate risk among African American women, they tend to have slightly higher rates than white or Hispanic women and a lot of that has to do with general access to healthcare."

N.C. DHHS has been working with local health departments and community organizations on STD prevention, testing and linking the public to care.

These efforts have included sponsored provider trainings and increased syphilis testing and awareness campaigns. Local health departments and community-based organizations offer free and confidential STD and HIV testing.

Individuals can take measures to protect themselves and their partner against HIV and STDs by:

  • Using condoms consistently and correctly

  • Limiting or eliminating drug and alcohol use before and during sex

  • Talking honestly and openly with their health care provider and asking whether they should be tested for STDs and HIV

  • Talking to their health-care provider to find out whether pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that significantly lowers the chances of contracting HIV if taken daily, is a good option for them

More information about HIV and STDs can be found here.

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