Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Prince George’s County Reports Second-Highest STI Rates Statewide

According to County Health Officer Donald Shell, Prince George’s County now has the second-highest HIV/AIDS and STI (sexually transmitted infection) rates in the state, trailing only Baltimore City in both categories. As reported by the Washington Post’s Ovetta Wiggins, the county had 5,240 reported HIV/AIDS cases in 2007, the most recent year of data available. There has also been a noticeable surge in STIs, including syphilis.

A number of factors might be at fault, as Shell pointed out. Proximity to DC (with its 3% HIV/AIDS rate) puts county residents at greater risk, as does lack of health care – about 151,000 residents do not have health coverage. Shell proceeded to attribute the majority of the infection rate to “blatant disregard” for safe sex practices, especially among the county’s college-aged men and women.

All of these factors need to be taken into consideration to create a multifaceted, effective strategy to address this issue. The serious lack of health coverage is of concern because it means that thousands of people may not be getting information about HIV and other STIs, screening, and treatment. All of these components are necessary to prevent HIV transmission. Given the risk of transmission amongst young adults, information about preventing the spread of HIV (such as through comprehensive sex education), and how to get tested and treated is critical. It is clear that unprotected sex is a major factor in these epidemics, and it is crucial that everyone, old and young, take responsibility in order to protect themselves and their partners.

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