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Health

Mendocino County Public Health Reports Increase in Syphilis and HIV Cases, Withholds Data for Privacy Concerns

This image shows HIV-1 virus particles (in blue) from infected H9 cells under a transmission electron microscope.  The particles are in different stages of replication: immature particles are seen as two

This image shows HIV-1 virus particles (in blue) from infected H9 cells under a transmission electron microscope. The particles are in different stages of replication: immature particles are seen as two “arcs” budding from the cell’s plasma membrane, while a mature spherical particle is observed in the extracellular space. This image was taken at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) at Fort Detrick, Maryland. (Credit: NIAID)

For the second time in the last five months, Mendocino County Public Health issued a press release warning residents of an increase in syphilis and HIV. When asked for more information about the number of cases and the demographics involved, they declined to answer, fearing the details could identify individuals.

On May 8, 2024, Dr. Charles Evan, Mendocino County Deputy Public Health Officer, issued a press release to Mendocino County media. The first line read: “HIV and SYPHILIS are HERE in Mendocino County. »

The only reference to increased rates of syphilis or HIV was not embedded in the press release itself, but in the body of the email sent to local media stating that “Deputy Health Director Charles Evans , MD, issues public advisory due to increasing cases of syphilis and HIV in Mendocino County.

The press release warned: “If you have had sexual contact or shared injection drugs with a partner whose history is unknown, you may have been exposed to HIV and SYPHILIS. »

This is the full detail offered in Dr. Evans’ initial public communication, prompting us to follow up for further information.

In an email exchange, we asked if Public Health could be specific about the increase in HIV and syphilis. Citing concerns that providing exact numbers “could potentially identify individuals,” all Public Health would tell us regarding HIV case rates was: “Overall, Public Health has noticed a significant increase in cases of HIV this year. »

In late January 2024, Mendocino County Public Health issued a similar press release. At that time, officials revealed specific numbers indicating that four Mendocino County residents had contracted HIV in the previous four years.

Health officials responded to our question about recent syphilis data reports, stating that Mendocino County has recorded 24 new cases in the last 5 months.

To put this number into context, the January press release stated that 40 new cases of syphilis were discovered in 2022. In 2023, Mendocino County set a record high for syphilis cases with a total of 53 cases reported. If the current case rate continues, we could surpass last year’s totals. The press release stated: “We have also had two (2) cases involving the brain, called neurosyphilis, and one case of syphilis from an infected mother to her newborn. »

Seeking to better understand which Mendocino County residents are most vulnerable to this recent increase in HIV and syphilis, we asked Public Health: “Which demographics/populations appear to be most affected?” Public Health Response: “Unfortunately, Public Health cannot provide the demographic data/populations that appear to be most affected. Again, this could potentially identify individuals.

Following our investigation, Public Health attributed the increase in syphilis and HIV to “unprotected sex with multiple partners.”

Mendocino County’s struggles with syphilis follow those of the rest of the United States. The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published an article titled “US syphilis spike decades in the making» which explains why cases in the United States have reached their highest levels since the 1950s, with an 80% increase reported between 2018 and 2022 according to the CDC. This increase seems to particularly affect black, Native American and female populations. This resurgence is attributed to changing sexual behaviors, inadequate screening, and reduced funding for prevention efforts.

However, the rise in HIV in Mendocino County is not following the national trend of declining transmission. According to CDC estimates, new HIV infections in the United States decreased by 12% between 2017 and 2021. Without specific data or year-over-year comparisons of HIV cases in Mendocino County, it is It is difficult to determine the extent to which the number of HIV cases in Mendocino County has declined. cases are increasing.

Mendocino County residents can access information about HIV testing and post-exposure treatment through local organizations. A free rapid HIV test is available by contacting Patty at MCAVHN at 707-272-9811. Planned Parenthood in Ukiah offers HIV testing services and accepts walk-ins; you can reach them at 707-462-4303. It is essential to learn promptly about post-exposure treatment, as it must begin within 72 hours of potential exposure. For more information and advice, consult a medical provider.

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News Source : kymkemp.com
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