Some STDs on the Rise in Galveston County
GCHD Highlights Free Testing, Prevention During National STD Awareness Month
GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas - When it comes to the number of people getting sexually transmitted diseases in Galveston County, some of statistics are trending up. Over the past ten years, reported cases of chlamydia, the most common STD in the U.S., have increased 44 percent in the county.
“The increase in chlamydia is not unique to our county,” said Jim Hilton, Galveston County Health District (GCHD) STD-HIV Services manager. “Factors like the ease of finding anonymous partners online, younger people becoming sexually active, our rising population and geographical location are all contributing factors. “
Communication between GCHD and medical providers has also increased, leading to more cases being properly reported and documented.
GCHD is using April, National STD Awareness Month, as an opportunity to highlight testing and prevention options Zvailable through its STD-HIV Services division.
Free HIV and syphilis testing, condoms and education are available through GCHD to any county resident. All services are free, private and confidential and can be scheduled by calling 409-765-2528.
Of the 254 counties in Texas, Galveston County ranks 11 in cumulative AIDs diagnosis since recordkeeping started in 1983. Of the 1,579 cases diagnosed in the county, 923 people are currently living with the disease, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
“Learning your HIV status is the first step in taking control of your sexual health and life,” Hilton continued. “When someone is diagnosed, they have the opportunity to manage the virus with early intervention and treatment.”
This STD-HIV division consists of three programs: surveillance, control and prevention. The division works with patients to track down sexual partners to facilitate testing and treatment services. Such efforts can continue for the partners of partners.
“We’re seeing people who hooked up anonymously online and have no name or contact info for their partners,” Hilton said. “This makes our role in controlling the infections more difficult and time-consuming.”
Outreach activities, including HIV testing parties and condom distribution, primarily center on men who have sex with men (MSM), especially the African American population, the group most severely affected by HIV.
“HIV and AIDS are not limited to gay or bi-sexual relationships,” Hilton continued. “It’s not uncommon for us to encounter men who are married to women and have children but acquire HIV through side sexual encounters with men.”
In 2016, the division distributed 16,995 condoms and conducted 2,346 HIV tests.
For more information about STDs, please visit www.gchd.org/std or www.cdc.gov/std.