Recent data from the city Department of Health has shown that the number of people infected by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is particularly high in New York.
While two-thirds of those cases are located in New York City, East Harlem is among the places that show the highest rates in common STDs such as chlamydia or gonorrhea.
This data also points out that sexually transmitted diseases are likely to be high in black communities.
In his studies, Gail Bolan, director of the division of STD prevention at the National center for HIV /AIds, found, “STDs take an especially heavy toll on African-Americans, particularly young African-American women and men. For example, Blacks represent just 14 percent of the U.S. population, yet they account for approximately half of all reported Chlamydia and syphilis cases and almost three-quarters of all reported gonorrhea cases.”
David bell, a doctor at New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley children’s Hospital, told am New York, “The fact is that in general, people are not well educated about sexually transmitted infections…besides just HIV.”
Bolan’s studies also show that differences in individual and social dynamics play an important role in the increase of infections. “Some Americans are at greater risk of infection than others. When risk behaviors are combined with barriers to quality health information and STD prevention services, the risk of infection increases,” said Bolan. bolan points out that not everyone can afford to live a healthy life.
Income, education or racial/ethnic backgrounds are barriers that contribute to increased STD rates, and African-Americans are the first victims of this inequality. One in five African-Americans do not have access to health insurance and, as a result, are more likely to get infected and transmit the disease because they can’t afford STD tests and other prevention services.
“The person’s social environment can also determine the availability of healthy sexual partners,” said Bolan. Because STDs rates are already higher in African-American communities than in others, Bolan explains, “These communities face a greater chance of infection with each sexual encounter. As a result, even the individual in this community who has only one sex partner can be at increased risk of infection.”
The last argument given by Bolan to explain this tendency is the fact that African-Americans use medical care less than whites. The research suggests that it may be partly related to distrust of the medical system.
“This distrust can negatively affect communication between health care providers and African-American patients, as can lack of cultural competence among health care providers,” said Bolan.
STDs, as well as other diseases, have become an indicator of social inequalities, with the most unprivileged becoming the first victims.
Adding to this problem is the recent rise in untreatable cases of STDs. Years ago, people infected with gonorrhea, for example, could be treated with cephalosporins, a type of antibiotic.
However, recent studies led by the New England Journal of Medicine show that more gonorrhea cases are becoming untreatable because people are more resistant to the treatment.
Of the 600,000 diagnosed cases in the United States, doctors say 10,000 cases are resistant to the treatment, and this number is rising. The report points out how resistance to the treatment is 17 times more common now than it was six years ago.
Many initiatives are being taken by the Health Department and the Food and Drug Administration in order to reduce the use of cephalosporins in livestock in order to maintain its efficiency in healing STDs.
Nevertheless, the main defense against these diseases is still awareness and protection.