Tag Archives: STD

Planned Parenthood: Ryan lies about access to health care in Wisconsin

During a CNN town hall meeting last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan told a patient who relies on Planned Parenthood that she would have many other places to go for her health care if he is successful in kicking Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid program.

However, ending funding for preventive care at Planned Parenthood would devastate essential health care access among the country’s and state’s most vulnerable populations — most prominently in Paul Ryan’s own back yard.

If Paul Ryan really wanted women to get the health care they need, he would not propose ending Planned Parenthood’s ability to serve 50,000 people in Wisconsin, leaving most of them without another provider.

As a part of the pubic health network in Wisconsin, no one knows better than Planned Parenthood the lack of access people in our state already face. We have been unable to identify alternative health care providers who are able to absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients in Wisconsin — including in Paul Ryan’s own district.

In 73 percent of the counties PPWI serves, there is not a provider who could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients. In those rare communities where there are other community health care providers, many would be unable to meet our patients’ need if Planned Parenthood could not provide care.

In fact, more than 6,000 people living in Speaker Ryan’s own district rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment and birth control. On behalf of these patients, we ask Speaker Ryan where these people go for health care? Community based health centers like Planned Parenthood are critical for especially vulnerable patients without easy access to other providers.

Even with Planned Parenthood’s continued care, there is a tremendous unmet need for health care in Wisconsin and in Speaker Paul Ryan’s own district. In Ryan’s district specifically, STD rates, teen births, poverty, infant mortality and unemployment rates are all higher than the state average. We’ve been hearing from leaders, partners and patients across Wisconsin, including those in the Speaker’s district. What they all know is ensuring continued access to a trusted and affordable community health care provider like Planned Parenthood is something we should all agree is important to help keep our communities safe, healthy and strong.

 

Young people fuel rise in sexually transmitted diseases, with record number of chlamydia cases

A U.S. sexually transmitted diseases epidemic is increasing and the most common infection, chlamydia, has risen to record levels, government officials say.

Reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis all increased in 2014. Chlamydia cases had dipped in 2013, but last year’s total of more than 1.4 million — or 456 cases per 100,000 — was the highest number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The chlamydia rate was up almost 3 percent from 2013, the CDC reported.

Sexually transmitted diseases are among more than 70 diseases that are reportable to the CDC, including measles, chickenpox and tuberculosis. Flu is reported differently, by hospitalizations.

“America’s worsening STD epidemic is a clear call for better diagnosis, treatment, and prevention,” said the CDC’s Dr. Jonathan Mermin.

Gonorrhea cases totaled 350,062, up 5 percent from 2013, and the most contagious forms of syphilis jumped 15 percent to 20,000. As in previous years, the syphilis increase was mainly in gay and bisexual men.

Most gonorrhea and chlamydia infections were in 15-to 24-year-olds, an ongoing trend. Both can cause infertility in women but can be treated with antibiotics. They often have no symptoms, and while yearly screening is recommended for sexually active women younger than 25, many don’t get tested and infections go untreated, the CDC said.

Wisconsin reported 27,168 cases of STDs diagnosed in 2014, which amounts to 483 per 100,00. Chlamydia led the pack with 22,837 new cases.

Syphilis cases in Wisconsin were the highest in the past decade, while chlamydia and gonorrhea were slightly lower than last year.

Eighty-seven percent of reported syphilis cases were among men, while 70 percent of chlamydia cases were among women.

Sixty-seven percent of all STD cases were reported among women.

Milwaukee County reported the highest STD rate, with 1,250 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Wisconsin Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Data, reported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The zip codes just west of Lake Michigan in the northern two-thirds of Milwaukee County were hit hardest.

Menominee, Kenosha, Dane and Racine rounded out the state’s top five counties, in that order.

Nationwide, Bible Belt cities topped the STD list.

Montgomery, with a population of 201,332, reported 1,899.29 cases per 100,000. Following Montgomery is St. Louis, which had 1,867.54 reported cases per 100,000, and, with a population of only 25,545, West Memphis, Arkansas, ranked third, with 1,717.20 reported cases per 100,000.

Rounding out the top 10 cities were: New Orleans, Killeen, Texas, Fayetteville, North Carolina, Norfolk Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia, Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas and Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C.

The military stations took the fifth, ninth and 10th spots, respectively.

Gay rights group endorses once-a-day pill intended to prevent HIV infection

The nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group over the weekend endorsed efforts to promote the use of a once-a-day pill to prevent HIV infection and called on insurers to provide more generous coverage of the drug.

Some doctors have been reluctant to prescribe the drug, Truvada, on the premise that it might encourage high-risk, unprotected sexual behavior. However, its preventive use has been endorsed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and many HIV/AIDS advocacy groups.

The Human Rights Campaign joined those ranks with the release of a policy paper strongly supporting the preventive use of Truvada. It depicted the drug as “a critically important tool” in combatting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“HRC does not take this position lightly,” the policy paper said. “We recognize there is still ongoing debate … and that there are those out there who will disagree with our stance.”

Truvada has been around for a decade, serving as one of the key drugs used in combination with others as the basic treatment for people with HIV. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved it for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP – in other words, for use to prevent people from getting sexually transmitted HIV in the first place.

“Today, there is an unprecedented chance to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in part through PrEP’s aggressive prevention of new HIV infections,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “There is no reason – medical or otherwise – to discourage individuals from taking control of their sexual health and talking to their doctor about PrEP.”

The CDC says studies have shown that Truvada, when taken diligently, can reduce the risk of getting HIV by 90 percent or more. Research discussed at the International AIDS Conference in July found that use of the drug does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses.

As part of its announcement, the Human Rights Campaign called on insurers, regulators and Truvada’s manufacturer to take steps to reduce costs, raise public awareness, and make the option available to all medically qualified individuals who could benefit from it, regardless of ability to pay.

The cost of Truvada varies widely; a New York State Health Department fact sheet gives a range of $8,000 to $14,000 per year. The manufacturer, California-based Gilead Sciences Inc., has a program that provides assistance to some people who are eligible to use Truvada but cannot afford it.

The Human Rights Campaign urged all states to emulate Washington state, which implemented a program earlier this year offering assistance in paying for PrEP. The preventive option also was endorsed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he announced initiatives in June aimed at ending the state’s AIDS epidemic by 2020.

The HRC called on state insurance regulators to take action against any insurers who deny legitimate claims from patients who’ve been prescribed PrEP by their doctors.

A prominent provider of services to HIV-positive people, the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, remains a vocal critic of the preventive use of Truvada. In an ad campaign launched in August, the foundation says many gay men fail to adhere to Truvada’s once-a-day regimen and describes government promotion of the drug as “a public health disaster in the making.”

On Oct. 10, an alliance of about two-dozen HIV/AIDS organizations in New York released an open letter to the Healthcare Foundation, asking it not to extend the ad campaign to their state.

“We believe your campaign could prevent people at risk for HIV from using this potential lifesaving medication,” the letter said.

The Healthcare Foundation’s president, Michael Weinstein, said his organization did plan to run ads soon in New York City asserting there is data casting doubts on Truvada’s effectiveness.

“Censoring the discussion is not the answer,” he said.

Weinstein also noted that – according to figures from Gilead – only a few thousand people thus far have filled prescriptions for Truvada.

“If people really felt it was the answer, it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t have spread like wildfire,” Weinstein said. “It’s obvious there is enormous ambivalence in the medical community.”

According to the CDC, there are about 50,000 new HIV infections annually, with gay and bisexual men accounting for nearly 63 percent of them.

On the Web…

Human Rights Campaign: http://www.hrc.org/

AIDS Healthcare Foundation: http://www.aidshealth.org/(hash)/

CDC factsheet: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/PrEP-GL-Patient-Factsheet-PrEP-English.pdf 

Wisconsin must unite around reproductive health care

As we enter 2013, we continue to face the stark reality that too many people are dying or facing a life-threatening disease due to lack of access to health care. The new year provides a new opportunity for all of us to work together, despite partisanship, to address essential health care needs.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s number one priority is to continue to meet our communities’ needs for essential and life-saving health care. Each year, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin serves nearly 80,000 patients with a wide range of preventative health services, including life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment for STDs and sexual health education.

Despite these efforts, nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin women in need of publicly supported reproductive and sexual health services – more than 165,000 people – go without this care. 

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is the largest nonprofit reproductive and sexual health care provider in the state. We work every day to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and to keep women and men safe, healthy and strong through early cancer detection and testing and treatment of STDs.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood and the other community-based health providers in Wisconsin helped avert 24,300 unintended pregnancies in 2008, which would likely have resulted in 10,800 births and 10,100 abortions. Averting these unintended pregnancies in Wisconsin helped save the federal and state governments $94.3 million in Medicaid costs for pregnancy-related and newborn care in 2008.

Improving access to reproductive health care also means enhanced access to the early detection and treatment of breast and cervical cancer. Breast and cervical cancer are two of the most common forms of cancer among women in the United States.

Early detection is key to successful treatment. In 2011, Planned Parenthood played a critical role in the early detection and screening of breast and cervical cancer by conducting 9,040 cancer screenings.

The socioeconomic barriers faced by many women of color, however, leave them without access to early cancer detection screenings. Consequently, cervical cancer impacts women of color at a rate two times higher than white women, and African-American women die from breast cancer at a much higher rate than white women.

If we are committed to addressing this significant gap in care, investments in early cancer detection and treatment programs will be key to saving the lives of all Wisconsin women.

In 2011, Planned Parenthood provided more than 73,515 STD and HIV tests. While HIV rates have remained stable over the past decade, African-American and Hispanic men and women are infected at a rate 5-25 times greater than whites. Today, one in three African-American men who have sex with men ages 15-59 are estimated to be HIV-positive – a rate 500 times higher than the general public in Wisconsin.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and estimates that 21 percent of people living with HIV are unaware of their HIV status. We must get serious about addressing this and saving lives by enhancing access to HIV prevention information, testing and care.

Providing essential health care services to people should not be a partisan issue. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, we can all agree that ensuring women and men have access to health care is an important priority. Yet, each legislative session we are faced with dozens of politically motivated policies that impose barriers to access.

It appears the 2013 session will follow this pattern. Despite an election where voters spoke loud and clear that they don’t want politicians meddling in personal medical decisions, our legislative leaders have not indicated any intention of changing their ways. Special interest groups focused on ending women’s access to all reproductive care have already previewed their wish list – policies restricting women’s access to everything from birth control to fertility services to abortion.

There is still time to choose a new direction. We must work together. We call on our elected leaders to set aside politics and join with us in addressing the health of the state of Wisconsin.

Tanya Atkinson is vice president for public affairs and education for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

Los Angeles to vote on condoms in porn

Los Angeles County voters will decide in a referendum in November whether to require condoms on the set of all local porn productions.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its partners collected more than 360,000 signatures to place the question on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Michael Weinstein, executive director of the foundation, said, “We are extremely pleased to learn that our county of Los Angeles ballot measure to require adult film producers to obtain public health permits has successfully qualified for the November ballot, particularly as that is also the presidential election and voter turnout is expected to be very high.”

The group argues the measure is needed to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and protect the actors.

If the measure passes, condoms would be require for any sex taking place for adult films. The measure also would require producers to post for display a public health permit obtained from the county that details the condom requirement.

City, state and federal regulations already exist for the adult film industry, which has opposed condom use with the basic argument that viewers don’t want to see them.

The industry largely is based in Los Angeles County in San Fernando Valley.

Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.

LA voters to decide on compulsory condoms in porn

Los Angeles County voters will decide in a referendum in November whether to require condoms on the set of all local porn productions.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its partners collected more than 360,000 signatures to place the question on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Michael Weinstein, executive director of the foundation, said, “We are extremely pleased to learn that our county of Los Angeles ballot measure to require adult film producers to obtain public health permits has successfully qualified for the November ballot, particularly as that is also the presidential election and voter turnout is expected to be very high.”

The group argues the measure is needed to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and protect the actors.

If the measure passes, condoms would be require for any sex taking place for adult films. The measure also would require producers to post for display a public health permit obtained from the county that details the condom requirement.

City, state and federal regulations already exist for the adult film industry, which has opposed condom use with the basic argument that viewers don’t want to see them.

The industry largely is based in Los Angeles County in San Fernando Valley.

Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.

LA County says ‘suit up’ with condom

Los Angeles County is saying “suit up” with its official condom, which isn’t flavored and doesn’t glow in the dark.

The million condoms that the health department is distributing to promote safer sex features a bow-tie design and encourages users to “Suit Up.”

The condoms are free, part of the county’s campaign to curb the spread of STDs.

The stylish “Suit Up” prophylactic is the winner of a Next Sex Symbol contest sponsored by the health department, which reviewed about 500 entries.

A runner up resembled a Hollywood Walk of Fame star with gender symbols for heterosexual and homosexual couples and the slogan “Safe Sex Star.”

Another entry displayed the word Hollywood with “wood” wrapped in a purple condom.

Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.

Get Yourself Tested campaign under way

The fourth annual GYT: Get Yourself Tested campaign is under way with the April observance of National STD Awareness Month.

The GYT campaign involves initiatives on air, online and on the ground at college campuses and in more than 5,000 health centers across the nation.

The primary forces behind GYT are MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation and their focus is on addressing high rates of STDs among people aged 25 and under.

The campaign has the support of a range of organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“MTV has made a sustained commitment to challenging the stigma that prevents countless young people from getting tested for STDs and HIV,” said Jason Rzepka, VP for MTV’s public affairs. “We’re proud that GYT has helped drive notable increases in STD testing, but there’s no finish line in this race, and we will continue to do all we can to help our audience make responsible decisions about their sexual health.”

According to the CDC, people age 15-24 represent nearly half of all new STDs occurring in the United States but represent just 25 percent of the population.

Rates of chlamydia, a preventable and treatable STD, are particularly high. Chlamydia often has no symptoms, and when left undiagnosed and untreated can cause serious health consequences, including infertility in women.  As a result, CDC recommends annual screening for all sexually active women aged 25 and younger.

“We’re proud to be a part of GYT because of the positive difference it has made on the lives of so many young Americans,” said Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. “The facts are clear – STDs are common, and the life-long impact of an untreated STD is real. But, these don’t have to be accepted parts of life. GYT provides the tools young people need to be proactive about their health.”

For information about GYT and getting tested, go to the campaign website.

Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.

Study: STDs rise among 50-plus

And another sexual myth is busted: Not only are more people over 50 having sex, but more in the 50 and older crowd are getting sexually transmitted diseases.

According to an article in the November/December issue of the journal MEDSURG Nursing, rates of HIV/AIDS, herpes, syphilis, human papilloma virus and other STDs are climbing steadily in the age group.

“Unfortunately, the common misconception still persists that people over 50 are no longer sexually active,” write co-authors Lisa Jeffers and Mary DiBartolo. “As a result, health care providers often do not discuss risky sexual behaviors and STD prevention with middle-aged and older adults.”

Delayed treatment can wreak havoc with patients’ health and cause serious complications and even death, Jeffers and DiBartolo say. Early diagnosis increases the chances for a quick cure in many cases, they say and also keeps costs down.

As far as incidence, most of the research has focused on HIV/AIDS, with rates in the over-50 age group living with the disease jumping from 17 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2005.

For other STDs, an annual 2004-05 U.S. Centers for Disease Control report showed the following number of cases for people over 40 per 100,000 population:

• Syphilis up from 4 to 4.8 individuals

• Chlamydia rose from 33.4 to 37

• Gonorrhea increased from 40.9 to 45.1

Jeffers and DiBartolo say some experts believe this age group is more sexually active than previous generations thanks to popular erectile dysfunction medications and hormone replacement. Other experts cite Baby Boomers’ more liberal sexual attitudes, high divorce rates and increased use of online dating services.

Several steps are urgently needed to stem the STD wave, Jeffers and DiBartolo say. Health care professionals first need to help patients feel comfortable discussing sexual matters, then educate them about risks. Providers should also do thorough physical assessments and screening tests, especially for HIV.

“Initiatives need to be developed to assist older adults in coping with a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS and other STDs,” the authors write. Support networks could help them on a personal level, and government agencies, insurance companies, senior organizations like AARP, and communities should promote awareness by including STD facts in newsletters and other publications.