STD rates rising in Guilford County
October 1, 2004
Filed under Archives
According to the Guilford County Health Department, an annual survey conducted by the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics (NCSCHIS) shows that Guilford County led the state in HIV/AIDS cases for 2003-04, and ranked fourth in the nation for overall sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates.
According to the Center’s survey, approximately one in 41 people in Guilford County is infected with HIV/AIDS. One in 30 is infected with syphilis, and one in eight is infected with some form of an STD.
“The numbers are both alarming and disturbing, but they aren’t uncommon,” Sandra Dail, a Guilford County health official, said. “As more and more people begin having unprotected sex and more strains of STDs form, the numbers can’t help but increase annually. It takes awareness and concern to ensure prevention.”
Per North Carolina law, many infectious diseases are required to be reported to local departments of health. Other data is collected in the form of vital registration data – birth and death certificates, for example. All county health departments are required to provide this data routinely to the NCSCHIS.
According to the report, new cases of HIV are occurring at a higher rate in Guilford County than in the state as a whole. Of the 136 new cases of HIV reported in North Carolina in 2003, 81 cases were reported in Greensboro residents and another 21 in High Point residents.
“The statistics are really senseless, when you think about all the prevention methods offered today,” Dail said. “Although abstinence is the only truly safe prevention method, the existence of male and female contraceptive devices should have made the number decrease years ago.”
“At the health department, not only do we offer testing services, but we also offer pamphlets explaining safer sex, and condoms are given out for free,” she said. “The fault really lies in the individuals.”
The report also showed that incidence rates for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are strikingly higher among racial minorities than among whites.
“I feel as though I and all my friends should be cautious in all our activities,” first-year Jarrett Walker said. “It’s definitely a wake up call, especially being a black male. This is a statistic I don’t want to be a part of.”
The most common diseases reported among young people were gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, crabs, trichomoniasis and HIV/AIDS.
An unofficial study conducted by NCSCHIS of all the colleges in Guilford County found that 56 to 63 percent of Guilford College students have been or are now infected with some form of an STD. The study reported that STDs were or had been present in 74 percent of North Carolina A&T State University students, 43 percent of University of North Carolina at Greensboro students, 39 percent of Greensboro College students, and 32 percent of Bennett College students.
“I believe that students should be more aware of the risks and factors involved in sexual activities, especially in college communities,” first-year Shaina Anderson said. “I think that colleges should do more to advocate safer sex practices. In order to ensure prevention, college sex sessions and free condoms are not enough. I think more should be done to increase awareness.”
In 2003, there were 48 reported AIDS-related deaths in Guilford County, compared to 481 in North Carolina. This compares to 2001′s statistics of 29 cases in Guilford County and 462 cases in North Carolina.
“These figures are particularly disturbing because the majority of those infected don’t know that they are infected, because they have not yet been tested.” Dail said. “Testing is mandatory for prevention.