STDs: CDC Launches Tough Prevention Campaign
Federal and local public health officials believe the "United States is in the throes of an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases," the New York Times reports. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is starting its largest campaign to "curb STDs" since World War II. Beginning next year, the CDC "will institute a radical change in the way it distributes prevention dollars to the states; each health department that applies must enlist community partners, like school boards and managed care organizations, in its prevention campaign." The goal is to "break ... the 'conspiracy of silence' that has allowed these infections to flourish," said Dr. King Holmes, professor of medicine at the University of Washington. The renewed emphasis on fighting STDs was prompted by "The Hidden Epidemic," a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences that concluded that "an effective national system for STD prevention currently does not exist," and "offered a blueprint for how to create one."
It Adds Up
According to the Times, "[a]n estimated 10 million to 12 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections are reported each year" to the CDC -- "roughly 80 times the new cases of tuberculosis, HIV infections and AIDS combined." While the government spent $230.8 million in 1995 to combat STDs, the CDC said "the direct cost of treating these infections was $7.5 billion."
AIDS To Blame?
According to public health officials, the emphasis on fighting AIDS over the past decade drew "time, money and attention away from other sexually transmitted infections," despite the fact that STDs "are fueling the AIDS epidemic." People with certain STDs "are two to five times as likely as others to become infected with the AIDS virus" and are "more likely to spread" HIV during sexual encounters, according to Dr. Judith Wasserheit, head of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention. Health officials have detected an alarming rise in the number of new syphilis cases. The CDC reported that there were 52,995 new syphilis cases in 1996, and the agency is pushing to "rid the nation of all new cases." President Clinton has asked Congress to dedicate $10 million to the syphilis eradication campaign, which could take up to 10 years to complete, Wasserheit said.
Lifting The Veil
The Times notes that "[u]nlike breast cancer or Parkinson's disease or AIDS, [STDs] have no natural constituency; patients and politicians do not go to Washington to fight for money to prevent them." And experts report that physicians "are not on the lookout for these infections"; a recent survey of health