The City of St. Louis Department of Health and the Saint Louis County Department of Public Health both recognize that sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) are a substantial health challenge facing public health agencies in the Saint Louis area that requires a coordinated effort.
"Germs spread by sexual activity don't recognize geographical boundaries and are a potential threat to an individual's immediate and long-term health and well-being," said Dr. Faisal Khan, director of the Saint Louis County Department of Public Health. "Skinker Boulevard means nothing to them. If we are to respond effectively and improve and protect the health of Saint Louis residents and visitors, we must work together."
"We are committed to working with all of our partners to help decrease local STD rates," said Melba Moore, acting director and commissioner of health for the City of St. Louis Department of Health, "This must include the continued coordination of regional prevention efforts, screenings, and treatment."
Added St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, "I applaud this effort as it relates directly to my strategic initiative to engage in more preventative public health measures that support optimal health for all residents in the region."
"I am a big advocate of working together as a region to support every St. Louisan," St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said. "We experience many of the same challenges that are best addressed from a united front, so we will continue to work together to share best practices and programs to benefit the whole region."
On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its annual STD Surveillance Report for 2015. According to the report, rates for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) were above both the state and national rates.
In the St. Louis region, the populations most affected by STDs are the same in both the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County.
In 2015, a significant percentage of all new STD cases in the St. Louis region were in persons under 25 years of age. For that reason, prevention efforts must include age-appropriate education for teens and young adults and the development and use of web-based options to reach this population.
In addition, there has been an alarming rise nationally in the number of syphilis cases, which is a reminder to local health officials and medical providers to vigilantly adhere to all CDC screening recommendations.
STDs are preventable and health officials in both the city and county are reminding parents and guardians to talk to their children about the risks associated with sexual activity and the steps can be taken to protect themselves and prevent the spread of STDs.
Said Dr. Khan, "A lot of factors at work here and a regional response is required that addresses the immediate disease specifics and those factors that contribute to the problem such as the lack of health insurance, inability to cover medical costs, and lack of transportation to needed services."
Added Director Moore, "Addressing the problem of STDs requires innovative age-appropriate coalitions, programs, and activities such as Sexually Transmitted Infection Regional Response Coalition (a coalition with a mission to promote healthy sexual behaviors and reduce the incidence of STDs in the Saint Louis community), Get Tested STL ( a collaborative effort between Saint Louis County Department of Public Health and the City of Saint Louis Department of Health to increase education and testing in high burden areas), Fading Out HIV (a barbershop STD education and awareness initiative) and the Condom Distribution App (mobile application that identifies the location of free condoms). The Supporting Positive Opportunities for Teens –known as The SPOT –is another existing example of a community based model worth replicating to enhance education and screening opportunities throughout the region."
The two departments are dedicated to improving and protecting the health of all Saint Louis residents and visitors, and will continue to work together to establish strong public-private partnerships with community-based organizations, hospitals, health centers, and other agencies to identify additional programs and efforts that are effective at reducing STD rates.
For information about The SPOT, please visit http://TheSPOT.wustl.edu/
Department of Health