California Syphilis Cases Spiked by 18 Percent in 2011

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The California Department of Public Health (CDHP) released its latest sexually transmitted disease (STD) statistics. Cases of syphilis have risen from 2,064 to 2,448 in 2011. Other STDs are on the rise as well.

Which other STDs are on the rise?

Cases of syphilis are most prevalent among white patients. Although the numbers of cases of gonorrhea are lower than the 2007 high of 31,191, last year's 27,455 reported diagnoses are well above the 26,842 cases diagnosed in 2010. This disease disproportionately affects black patients. Chlamydia, too, is on the increase. Whereas in 2010 there were 155,340 reported cases, by 2011 this figure had increased to 164,591 confirmed diagnoses. Cases of Chlamydia affect primarily the state's Hispanic population (49,418 cases).

Why is this trend worrisome?

A 2011 study by the CDHP showed that there is a correlation between STDs and HIV/AIDS prevalence. Infection with syphilis in males in particular was accompanied with HIV or AIDS diagnoses, the study found. "Given that HIV/AIDS and STDs share behavioral risk factors, this figure reiterates the importance of disease PCSI efforts when attempting to reduce morbidity," the researchers warned.

Do California schools teach sex health education?

As outlined by the California Department of Education (CDE), California public schools are not required by law to teach sex education, which includes facts about STDs. Schools do have the obligation to teach HIV/AIDS prevention in middle school and high school. While it is not required, surveys showed that at least 96 percent of California school districts have adopted a comprehensive sex health curriculum. By law, school districts teaching sex health must make the education "accessible for English language learner students and students with disabilities," the CDE specifies.

Are there possible problems associated with California's sexual health education?

The ACLU of Northern California highlights that there is not one standardized curriculum that is in use. Although the CDE has set forth a framework of guidelines -- for example, sex education must be medically accurate and unbiased -- the purchase of curricula is up to school boards and school districts. ACLU researchers have found that this has led to a patchwork of sex health education programs, some of which are less than effective.

What do officials say?

"The longer people have these infections without being treated the more likely it is they are going to develop a complication that will have both health and financial costs," a Sexually Transmitted Disease Control Branch spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times. Officials underscore the need for targeted sex health education outside of public school settings, but also note that plenty of programs have been eliminated due to budget constraints.

Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.

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