ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The accelerated pace of cyber courtship is getting part of the blame for an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.
“You don’t have to spend a week in a bar to find somebody you’re comfortable with,” said St. Louis Health Director Pam Walker, “People are doing it online and they’re doing it faster.”
Walker says 90 percent of the some 400 new cases of gonorrhea and 126 new cases of chlamydia are African Americans between the ages of 15-to-24.
New numbers released today by the CDC also show 18 new cases of syphilis. Gay men who know they are HIV positive account for the all of the new syphilis cases, Walker said.
“Two people who know their status and know they are positive for HIV feel like they can have sex without a condom, because they’re already infected,” Walker said, “And what they’re doing is giving each other syphilis.”
With syphilis up 46 percent, gonorrhea up 31 percent and chlamydia up three-percent, Walker says none of the increases appear linked to any cutbacks in health department spending.
“I have not cut communicable disease control in the five years that I’ve been director,” Walker said.
Without yet calling for funding increases, Walker warns that reducing STDs could be an expensive public policy problem.
“If I put 20 disease investigators in the field and they followed those 55 people around who have syphilis, could I probably get rid of it?” Walker asked, “Yeah, but that would cost about $400,000.”
Walker is calling on private providers and community clinics to help her locate the sex partners of people with known sexual diseases. She points to a new law in the state — the Expedited Partner Therapy law — that allows for clinics to dispense enough antibiotics to a known carrier of gonorrhea , chlamydia or syphilis to give anonymously to sexual partners to treat them.
“If you have gonorrhea, then your partner probably has gonorrhea,” Walker said, “I need to talk to that partner and find out if they have three other partners, or we never break the chain.” Walker says
Of particular concern among the three STDs on the increase, chlamydia shows no symptoms and if left untreated in women, it can lead to infertility. Based a national CDC study, Walker estimates that one in three women in the city may be infected with chlamydia.