St. Louis has highest rate of chlaymydia, gonorrhea

Boone County also has one of the highest infection rates in the state.
Brochures with information on sexually transmitted diseases rest on display in the reception area of Planned Parenthood on Providence Road. A report on STDs found St. Louis has the highest rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia in the U.S., with Boone County having higher rates than most counties in Missouri.

A report on sexually transmitted diseases released last month found St. Louis has the highest per capita rate of gonorrhea and chlamydia in the U.S, even as the overall number of STD cases has decreased.

The Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance of 2007, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found the city to have the highest per capita rate of the two diseases of any county or independent city in the nation, a trend that has seen the city ranked in the top five every year for the past decade.

The report said doctors found 742 cases of gonorrhea and 1,265 cases of chlamydia per every 100,000 of St. Louis' 350,759 residents.

Collectively, the St. Louis metropolitan area ranks eighth in per capita diagnoses of gonorrhea and chlamydia, an improvement of its 2006 rankings of fifth and sixth for the diseases, respectively.

Kansas City, Boston and Las Vegas were among the areas with a lower incidence of infection than St. Louis.

Relative to other counties in the state, Boone County had some of the worst infection rates, with more than 100 cases per 100,000 for gonorrhea and more than 400 per 100,000 people for chlamydia.

Nationwide, the CDC found chlamydia and gonorrhea cases numbered more than 1.4 million, hitting much harder in women and minority communities. The CDC found the per capita rate of chlamydia and gonorrhea to be three times greater per capita in females than males.

In a CDC news release, STD Prevention Program Director John Douglas said the diseases' prevalence threatens fertility in those populations, increasing the need for prevention programs targeting those groups.

"Left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infertility, affecting a woman's chance to bear children later in life," Douglas said in the release. "Such a severe consequence is entirely avoidable, if as a nation we work together to increase the use of proven prevention tools and make them widely available to those who need them."

The CDC said the diseases can be easily diagnosed and treated but said about 40 percent are not because they show no symptoms and are undetected. The department said this causes infertility in as many as 50,000 women per year.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea rates were highest among black women, especially in the South. Missouri's statewide rate of chlamydia among 16- to 24-year-old women entering the National Job Training program was near the national median at 13.2 percent but states of the Deep South saw rates of 17 percent to as high as 23.5 percent in Louisiana.

The CDC attributed the high numbers in the South to poorer socioeconomic conditions, saying it is one of the most important social determinants of sexual health. The agency said high poverty among African Americans denies them access to STD prevention services and quality health care necessary to diagnose cases and prevent their spread. Douglas said health departments in southern states should tailor their STD prevention programs to target groups lower on the socioeconomic ladder.

"The racial disparities in rates of STDs are among the worst health disparities in the nation for any health condition," Douglas said in the release. "We must intensify efforts to reach these communities with needed screening and treatment services. Testing and the knowledge of infection is a critical first step toward reducing the continued consequences of these diseases."

--Wes Duplantier,

staff writer

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