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FOR RELEASE: April 11, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Health Officials Stress Crucial Need for Testing for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

April is National STD Awareness Month. This activity, sponsored by the American Social Health Association (ASHA) and supported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), hopes to increase public awareness of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

More than 15 million cases of STDs will occur this year in the United States, according to ASHA. During 2001, approximately 15,700 cases of STDS were reported in Oklahoma. Of these 15,700 cases, more than 10,600 derived from chlamydia, and more than 4,840 were from gonorrhea. Experts estimate that millions of Americans have an STD and do not know they are infected.Health providers are concerned with the elevation of reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea and believe that individuals may have become so distracted by the emphasis placed upon preventing HIV/AIDS that they have forgotten to pay attention to these STDs.

“I encourage individuals who may have placed themselves at risk, to go to a local county health department to be tested, because many STDs do not display any signs or symptoms,” says William Pierson, chief, HIV/STD Service. “If left untreated, STDs can cause serious health problems such as chronic pain, infertility, and possibly death.”

Numerous efforts and programs in locations across the state encourage “at risk” populations to get informed and tested. Included are prevention programs throughout Oklahoma that provide counseling and testing services to individuals infected by HIV/AIDS. These programs are funded by the OSDH in cooperation with community-based organizations.

In Oklahoma County, a special public education project that focuses on getting tested and cured of syphilis has been effective in providing information to clients in the area. That project is a part of the National Syphilis Elimination Project funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Oklahoma County had been designated as one of the top six cities in the United States for syphilis infection rates.

For more information about STDs, contact the OSDH HIV/STD Service at 405-271-4636.

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