Counties report rise in sexually transmitted diseases

Alisa Boswell

The number of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) being reported in young people in Curry and Roosevelt is above the state average and that has public health officials concerned.

Specifically, Curry and Roosevelt counties rate above the state average with chlamydia, HPV and Gonorrhea, according to officials at the New Mexico Department of Health in Santa Fe

“Teens have pretty high gonorrhea rates in the area, so I think the question is can teens get information, protection, treatment and services,” said Dan Burke, STD program manager for the state public health department. “I’m not local but those are things to consider.”

Burke said Curry County had the third highest rate for gonorrhea among New Mexico Counties for 2010. Roosevelt and Curry counties had the fifth and sixth highest rates for chlamydia in the state.

Burke also said Curry County teenagers ages 15 to 19 have rates three times higher than the state average for gonorrhea while 20- to 24-year-olds rate 1.5 times higher.

“Region 4 (includes Curry and Roosevelt) has lost disease prevention staff and now with only two members of the team for the region, they have a decreased ability to find infected persons and partners,” said Sandra Sentell, disease prevention supervisor for the region.

Carol Morgan, managing nurse for the Portales Public Health Office, said from January through June, her office treated 27 cases of chlamydia.

She estimated that one in four people under 25 years old in Portales test positive for chlamydia.

“Sex is in every part of young people’s culture, their music, their television,” Morgan said. “They’re taking chances with things they don’t understand.”

Morgan said more importantly than educating teens and young adults is educating their parents.

“Parents need to teach their kids that if something isn’t part of their plan, they should avoid what causes it,” Morgan said. “They think it’s a normal part of life but sex is about sex and long term commitment is a whole other thing.”

Kristin Kuhlmann, director of the Eastern New Mexico University health services, said she feels part of the reason rates are higher for the two counties is because more screening is done by health offices in the two counties and because both have a higher population of people ranging from 18 to 25 years old due to the two colleges.

“Stressing abstinence first is the most important thing but you need to put that education out there,” Kuhlmann said. “To not put the information out there, I think is irresponsible. Hopefully with that education out there, rates will lower.”