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FINGER LAKES   ADVERTISEMENT

Report: Area STD rates are high

FINGER LAKES—A report released in mid-April by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield has revealed that sexually-transmitted disease rates in the Finger Lakes area are significantly higher-than-average.
The study documented 407 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 among teens in the Finger Lakes region. This is higher than the average rate of 369 cases per 100,000 for NYS. Out of the 88,460 total reported cases of chlamydia within New York State, 1,542 total cases came from residents who live in the Finger Lakes.
On a local basis, 27 live in Schuyler County, 169 live in Steuben County and 37 live in Yates County. In the Excellus report, the five most commonly reported STDs among teens and adults for upstate NY (in order of the incident rates) included: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and AIDS.
The health insurance company looked at the rates of infection compiled from the New York State Department of Health. It considered Yates, Schuyler, Steuben, Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca and Wayne counties as the Finger Lakes region.
Rates among 15 to 19 year-olds with gonorrhea were also higher than the state average with 548 cases of gonorrhea per 100,000 in the Finger Lakes region and 314 per 100,000 for NYS. As of June 2009 Schuyler County had four people, Steuben County had 18 people and Yates County had two people with reported gonorrhea out of 1,472 total reported cases in the region. Total people living with gonorrhea in NYS were 17,120. Of these people with gonorrhea in Yates, Schuyler and Steuben Counties, 15 were between the ages of 15 and 19.
Although HIV and AIDS rates were relatively low in upstate NY, the Finger Lakes region had the highest reported rate for newly diagnosed HIV infections with 9.5 per 100,000. Reported AIDS infections in the Finger Lakes were 9.3 per 100,000 which was also the highest in upstate NY. Of the known cases of people living with HIV or AIDS, 11 reside in Schuyler County, 71 reside in Steuben County and 12 reside in Yates County.
Yates, Seneca, Wayne, Ontario, Monroe and Livingston Counties also had high rates of syphilis with 2.1 per 100,000. As of May 2009, one person in Schuyler County and two people in Steuben County reportedly have syphilis out of 65 in the region.
“STDs affect upstate New Yorkers of every age, sex, race and socioeconomic status. Yet because of the stigma surrounding the diseases, it is the one epidemic no one talks about,” said Dr. Marybeth McCall, chief medical officer for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
The cost of health care directly related to STDs is difficult to measure because many cases go undiagnosed or unreported. The most recent nationwide average cost of STDs among teens and young adults was calculated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2000. “We have to be able to talk about risk, to talk about infections, to talk about symptoms, to have our children seek care. Discussions around sexual health are never easy or comfortable. Until we start increasing awareness around the importance of regular screenings for at-risk individuals, many undiagnosed infected individuals will put their health at risk by going untreated and will threaten the health of others by unknowingly spreading their infection,” McCall said.
Most STDs are transferred through sexual activity, but can also be passed during childbirth or through breastfeeding. Not all sexually transmitted diseases show signs or symptoms and those that do can mimic other conditions such as the common cold.
If STDs go untreated they can have serious complications like infertility, increased risk of HIV transmission, pregnancy complications, and reproductive tract cancers.
Testing is most often times the only way to diagnose infection. “The takeaway from this report is that there are serious long-term health consequences resulting from undiagnosed and untreated STDs. It is time to stop being embarrassed and start talking,” McCall said.