Orange County, Calif., Officials Concerned Over HIV Misinformation, Increasing Syphilis Rates
Citing a new study showing a "nonchalance" among HIV-positive residents about transmitting the virus and a rise in reported syphilis cases among men who have sex with men, health officials in Orange County, Calif., are "concerned" that "unsafe sex is on the rise," the Los Angeles Times reports. A Public Statistics Institute survey of 513 HIV-positive people at federally funded AIDS clinics found that 43% of respondents "rarely or never" discuss HIV with their partners before having sex, and one-quarter did not know the HIV status of one or more of their partners. In addition, one-third of respondents incorrectly believed that because of new treatments, HIV "no longer leads to death." Fourteen percent also incorrectly thought that the treatments made HIV-positive individuals "less likely to transmit the virus." Orange County has an estimated 6,700 HIV-positive residents (Hanley/Mena, Los Angeles Times, 6/8). Meanwhile, syphilis cases in the county appear to be increasing for the second straight year, the Orange County Register reports. At least 18 new cases have been reported this year, twice the number during the same period last year. The county has experienced a 161% increase in reported syphilis cases between 1997 and 2000. Officials say a "relaxed attitud[e]" toward sex and STDs may be responsible for the increase (Saar, Orange County Register, 6/8). Saying that more education and prevention programs are needed, health officials are working with four "primarily gay Latin[o]" bars in the central and southern parts of the county to educate patrons about STDs (Los Angeles Times, 6/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.