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Public Health Aims to Eliminate Congenital Syphilis in Five Years

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The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its annual Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Surveillance Report that highlights the ongoing increase in syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia cases throughout the United States, including California and Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) has prioritized reducing the rates of STD’s across the county and eliminating cases of congenital syphilis in 5 years.

In 2017, Los Angeles County reported 59,410 cases of chlamydia (a 1.6% increase compared to 2016), 24,157 cases of gonorrhea (9.5% increase), 4,403 cases of early syphilis (9.8% increase) and 44 cases of congenital syphilis (18.9% increase).

If left untreated, STDs can increase the risk of HIV infection and lead to lifelong health problems, including infertility among women. The sharp increase in congenital syphilis is especially concerning as these cases can lead to miscarriages, abnormal fetal development, significant lifelong health issues, and death in infants.

Community partners, residents and Public Health staff have developed an action plan that focuses on addressing the causes of disproportionate rates of infections among men who have sex with men, African American women, transgender women, and African American and Latino youth. Strategies outlined in the plan include reducing barriers to STD services and increasing the number of providers who appropriately screen and treat patients and their partners.

Additional areas of focus include offering support to pregnant women who are disconnected from health and social services, reducing stigma and discrimination for people at increased risk of an STD, and providing appropriate information to youth around sexual health and well-being.

This year, Public Health will increase provider training, broadly disseminate the recently developed Syphilis Action Kit https://tinyurl.com/ydyctl9m, launch the “Think Syphilis” social marketing campaign, and expand home-based services for pregnant women at high risk of having a poor birth outcome pregnant women.

Reversing the deeply troubling increases in STD rates in Los Angeles County will require active engagement among healthcare systems and meaningful partnerships between government, community-based organizations, faith-based institutions, educational institutions, elected and non- elected community leaders and community residents.

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of over 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health comprises nearly 4,100 employees and has an annual budget of $1 billion. To learn more about Los Angeles County Public Health, please visit www.publichea lth.lacounty.gov, and follow LA County Public Health on social media at twitter.com/lap ublichealthfacebook.co m/lapublichealthinstagra m.com/lapublichealth and youtube.com/

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