Press Release

January 13, 2009


State’s top doc encourages communities to step up the fight against STDs as reported cases of chlamydia in the U.S. reach all time high

 Illinois ranks in the top ten states for chlamydia and gonorrhea

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director, is reemphasizing the need for educating, testing and treating Illinoisans for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases its 2007 Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance report. The report shows reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea in the United States exceeded 1.4 million in 2007 and continued increases in syphilis.

“We need to continue our educational and testing efforts to protect people from being infected with sexually transmitted diseases and suffering the horrible health effects of untreated STDs,” said Dr. Arnold. “I would like to call on parents and doctors to talk with their children or patients about the dangers of STDs, how they can be prevented and the importance of being tested.”

Illinois ranks 10th among the 50 states in 2007 for chlamydia with a rate of 432.2 cases per 100,000 people. Illinois ranked 9th for gonorrhea with a rate of 162.2 cases per 100,000 people and 16th for syphilis at a rate of 3.6 cases per 100,000 people.

The CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new STD infections occur each year and almost half of them are among young people age 15 to 24 years. Chlamydia remains the most commonly reported disease in the U.S. and the number of reported cases for 2007, more than 1.1 million, is the largest number of cases ever reported to CDC for any condition. That being said, the CDC estimates that there are approximately 2.3 million news cases of chlamydia in the U.S. each year, indicating that more than half of all new cases remain undiagnosed and unreported.

Youth, women and African-Americans bear the greatest burden of STDs according to the CDC. In 2007, the chlamydia rate and gonorrhea rate was higher among women compared to men.

“If women are not treated for chlamydia, they often face infertility and medical complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease and pregnancy outside the uterus. These severe consequences are entirely avoidable with education, testing and treatment,” said Dr. Arnold.

The surveillance report also shows ongoing racial disparities for STDs, with African Americans being the most impacted. In 2007, the case rate for gonorrhea was 26 times higher in Illinois for African Americans than the rate among whites.

In July 2003, the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Center for Minority Health Services began the Communities of Color Initiative 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.

IDPH encourages health care providers to test all sexually active females 15 to 25 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 170,000 tests for chlamydia during 2007 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.

Dr. Arnold has traveled around Illinois holding town hall meetings to discuss STDs, with a focus on youth, to start conversations about what will work best for each community to address the growing number of STD cases.

By acknowledging the presence of health disparities and discussing what services are available to help reduce the spread of STDs in a community, the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health recommends each community develop a coordinated approach among numerous groups and organizations to address these issues.

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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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