Press Release

April 1, 2008

Blagojevich administration encourages community involvement to fight STDs and health disparities during National STD Awareness Month and Minority Health Month

 Public health director encourages town meetings to address health issues unique to each community  

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – On behalf of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, Dr. Damon T. Arnold, director for the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), led a town hall meeting, “Girl did you know…” to address a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found African-American teenage girls were most severely affected by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Held at the East St. Louis Public Library, the meeting included a discussion led by a panel of health officials and an audience question and answer period.

“We need to renew our educational and testing efforts to protect the young women of Illinois, especially African-American women, from being infected with sexually transmitted diseases and suffering the horrible health effects if the disease goes untreated. I encourage communities throughout Illinois to hold town meetings, like the one tonight, involving local government officials, health professionals and community groups to learn about the problems and health risks associated with STDs, to address health disparities and to develop a plan to fight these problems” said Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

In July 2003 Governor Blagojevich announced the Communities of Color Initiative, administered by the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Center for Minority Health Services, to address health disparities within African American and Hispanic communities. The initiative works in conjunction with community-based and faith-based organizations, educational institutions and local health departments to provide health prevention information and screening services to these often underserved communities.

Tonight’s meeting demonstrates the Governor’s ongoing commitment to addressing health disparities in Illinois and will help the State identify ways to fight the alarming rate of STDs among minority populations.

A CDC study released last month estimated that one in four teens in the U.S. between the ages of 14-19 is infected with at least one STD and that African-American teenage girls were most severely affected. Almost half of young African-American women (48 percent) were estimated to be infected with an STD, compared to 20 percent of young Caucasian women.

John M. Douglas, Jr., M.D., director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, was quoted in a recent CDC release saying, “High STD infection rates among young women, particularly young African-American women, are clear signs that we must continue developing ways to reach those most at risk.”

“We are conducting this town hall meeting in East St. Louis tonight because it is one of the communities in Illinois most affected by STDs. It is important for communities to work together to help prevent and reduce the high rate of infection, especially among women and adolescents,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

In East St. Louis the rate of chlamydia was 4.6 times greater than the rate for Illinois and 5.7 times greater than the rate for the U.S. in 2006. For gonorrhea, the rate was 6.7 times the rate for Illinois and 9 times greater than the rate for the U.S.

The following are rates of infection for STDs in East St. Louis for 2006.

Chlamydia per 100,000

East St. Louis






Gonorrhea per 100,000

East St. Louis






Teenage women between the ages of 15-19 in East St. Louis accounted for 44.3 percent (381) of all reported cases of chlamydia and 40.4 percent (150) of all reported cases of gonorrhea in 2006.

Also in 2006, women age 15-24 accounted for 73.6 percent (29,241) of all chlamydia cases in Illinois women (39,705). Of that 73.6 percent, more than half (15,859) were African American.

IDPH encourages health care providers to test all sexually active females 15 to 24 years of age at least annually for chlamydia. IDPH, in collaboration with school based health centers, family planning clinics, adult and juvenile correctional centers and other agencies serving females at increased risk for chlamydia infection, performed more than 197,000 tests for chlamydia during 2006 in order to halt disease transmission by identifying and treating infected persons.

IDPH, in partnership with local health departments, ensures STD diagnostic and treatment services are accessible throughout Illinois; monitors and responds to sexually transmitted disease trends ensuring that persons infected with STDs receive appropriate treatment, counseling and referral; conducts screening programs; funds innovative community based initiatives to prevent and contain STDs such as the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department's Mobile Health Vans and the Howard Brown Health Center's Out Reach Testing and Education Services in suburban Cook County; provides vaccinations for hepatitis A and B to persons attending STD clinics; and provides technical assistance and training to health care providers regarding STD testing, treatment and follow-up.

Looking at health disparities, a Harvard University and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey released last month found minorities are more likely than white patients to rate their health care as fair or poor. The survey also found minorities often experience difficulty in getting appointments with doctors, which could account for the disparities in STD numbers between African-American and Caucasian young women.

By acknowledging the presence of health disparities and discussing what services are available to help reduce the spread of STDs in a community, that community can develop a coordinated approach among numerous groups and organizations to address these issues.

CDC STD Awareness Web site - www.cdcnpin/stdawareness

idph online home
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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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