STDs Hit African-Americans at Higher Rate

David Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 14, 2009

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In 2008, 49 of 89 cases of syphilis in Allegheny County [Pennsylvania], or more than 60 percent of all cases, involved African-Americans, who make up 13.5 percent of the county population.

Meanwhile, about 1,585 of 2,164 cases of gonorrhea last year (or 73.3 percent of the county total) and 3,070 of 5,206 cases of chlamydia (about 60 percent of the total) also involved African-Americans.

Regarding HIV/AIDS, 52 of 92 cases countywide in 2008, or 56 percent of the total, involved African-American citizens.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, already working to address the national problem of disproportionately high numbers of STD cases among African-Americans, describes the task as “a daunting undertaking.”

“STD disparities reflect socioeconomic disparities, which in turn reflect deep-rooted racial inequalities that continue to exist and are metastasized throughout American society,” states a CDC overview on STD prevention.

Last year, the CDC said, nearly half of all young African-American teenage females, aged 14 to 19, were infected with an STD, compared with 20 percent of young white females.

STD totals statewide, based on 2007 numbers, also show racial disparity in the number of African-Americans with infections. About 52 percent of all chlamydia cases, 65 percent of all gonorrhea cases and 51 percent of all syphilis cases in the state involve African-Americans, who make up 10 percent of the state population.

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To reduce STDs, local health officials also must address other problems affecting the minority population to break down social barriers and earn its trust.

“The people at highest risk are the most socially and emotionally isolated, and they are suspicious,” Dr. Smith [Walter H. Smith, executive director of Family Resources of Allegheny County] said. “There is an increased rate of STD in their community? Surprise! Surprise! We’re not reaching them.”

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