Syphilis numbers still high in Pima County, new campaign targets - Tucson News Now

Syphilis numbers still high in Pima County, new campaign targets pregnant women

Pima County Health Department Relaunches Syphilis Campaign, targets pregnant women (Source: Pima County) Pima County Health Department Relaunches Syphilis Campaign, targets pregnant women (Source: Pima County)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The number of syphilis cases are slowly declining in Pima County according to health officials, but consider it "still too high."
 
According Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County’s Chief Medical Officer and Assistant County Administrator for Health Services, there are currently a little more than 100 cases of syphilis in Pima County.
 
That’s down from the 142 people who contracted the sexually transmitted disease in 2014. That was triple the amount of people compared to previous years and pushed the county to launch a syphilis awareness campaign.
 
Garcia explained gay and bisexual men remain hardest-hit by syphilis, but recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control report the rate of congenital syphilis is the highest it’s been in 15 years.
 
Congenital syphilis is when a mother, who has contracted syphilis, passes the infection on to her baby during pregnancy.
 
To prevent Pima County from jumping on that trend, health department officials have relaunched a syphilis awareness campaign. New this year, they’ve included an ad featuring the illustration of a pregnant woman.


 
“We’ve seen more cases of congenital syphilis. We’ve had approximately a handful of cases this year and so we’re trying to be aggressive about it,” said Dr. Garcia. “A handful of cases is too many cases because of the consequences of this disease.”
 
If mom is left untreated, 40 percent of newborns may be stillborn or die from the infection shortly after birth according to the CDC. Babies that survive could suffer from deformed bones, severe anemia, and brain and nerve problems.
 
Part of the health department’s message is to stress the practice of safe sex. Health officials also want to put out the reminder that syphilis is treatable and curable, but early detection is key.
 
Right now, drivers can see the Pima County Health Department’s syphilis ad campaign on various bus shelters mostly in the 85705 and 85713 area codes.
 
“We’re trying to target places across our jurisdiction where we have seen the cases occur,” said Dr. Garcia.
 
As for why syphilis cases are still high, he explained his theory on what may be behind the trend.
 
“There are a number of apps and other online facilitators that allow us to have anonymous or near-anonymous sex.  And when you have that with people you don’t know, you’re going to get something,” he said. “The organism is the thing that is causing the disease. It’s not the dating app. But it’s the behavior for hooking up may contribute to unsafe sexual practices.”
 
For free and confidential syphilis testing, contact the Pima County Health Department at (520) 727-7800 or visit http://webcms.pima.gov/health/sexual_health/hiv_and_std/ for more information.

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