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Sullivan’s high STD rates cause concern

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Sullivan County’s ranking as second most “unhealthy” county in the state has already made the rounds—now data suggests that this also matches up in terms of sexual health.

“When looking at rates of sexually transmitted infections… Sullivan County is through the roof,” said Jessie Moore, Planned Parenthood director of education in the mid-Hudson Valley. Compared to surrounding Orange, Dutchess and Ulster counties, Sullivan, for the size of its population, appears to have a higher rate of prevalence for sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have risen in the county for three years in a row.

From 2014 to 2016, the crude rate of the number of people who have an STD, out of 100,000, was 2,864 in Sullivan. In the overall Mid-Hudson region, that rate was 1,810 out of 100,000. More than half of the confirmed cases of chlamydia in 2017 were among 15 to 19 year olds.

These rates have alarmed Moore and others, and spurred interest in a countywide forum to offer information on STD testing and safe sex.

The forum, planned for the end of the summer, will bring together those working in public or sexual health in Sullivan. “There are some great resources in Sullivan County, [but] it seems as though not everybody is on the same page,” Moore said.

STD rates across the country have been rising for the last three years—the number of cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia in 2017 surpassed the previous 2016 record by more than 200,000 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York specifically has some of the highest rates of chlamydia and syphilis in the country.

Part of the issue, Moore noted, is that diseases like chlamydia commonly present no symptoms at all. Additionally, many people who are sexually active do not know enough about testing, choosing only to get a swab in one area, or only do a urine test, when further testing may be necessary.

The Community Health Improvement Program (CHIP) in Orange County, Moore said, has seen success in addressing STD prevention. Part of that plan included evidence-based strategies to target teen pregnancy and sexual health. According to the Orange County executive summary for the program, hundreds of outreach programs involving community partners reached more than 6,000 people in 2014 and 2015.

Sullivan’s CHIP plan lists Planned Parenthood, Sullivan BOCES prevention services, Hudson River Healthcare, the United Way of Sullivan County and more as partners in its reproductive health focus. Moore plans on bringing all these stakeholders together to address the alarming STD rates.

“New York… has expedited partner therapy, meaning you can get a prescription for your partner for treatment [for chlamydia] without them needing to be seen. People of any age can access testing and treatment in New York,” Moore said. “All of that to say that these numbers should not be as high as they are. There are way too many options for prevention as well as treatment in the state of New York.”

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