Increases in STD Cases Among NYC Residents Raise Public Health Concerns, Including Possible Rise in New HIV Cases
Although New York City residents are healthier overall than they were a decade ago, increases in the number of cases of the sexually transmitted diseases syphilis and chlamydia show that the diseases "may again be cause for concern," particularly because infection with one of the STDs increases a person's risk of contracting HIV through unprotected sex, the New York Times reports. According to figures released last week by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's (R) office, 599 new cases of syphilis were reported in 2003 -- 100 more cases than were reported the previous year. It was the fourth straight year in which the number of newly reported cases increased, according to the Times. New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden said that the increase in the number of syphilis cases occurred exclusively among men and primarily among men who have sex with men.
HIV, Funding Concerns
Although there is no evidence of an increase in the number of new HIV cases in the city, the increase in the numbers of new syphilis and chlamydia cases might indicate that public health campaigns promoting condom use are "beginning to lose their resonance," according to the Times. The percentage of adults who reported using a condom the last time they engaged in sex -- 36% -- was lower in 2003 than in past years, according to a study released last year by the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. According to Dr. Irwin Redlener, co-founder of the Children's Health Fund and associate dean at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, the city's health department does not have enough funding to address public health problems and "deal with the burdens of preparedness" for terrorists attacks, the Times reports. The health department's budget increased from $1.37 billion in 2003 to $1.5 billion in 2004, according to the Bloomberg's Management Report. It was a "relatively small increase given the cost of many of the new tasks the department has taken on," according to the Times (Santora, New York Times, 9/20).