South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control is concerned about the increasing number of people being infected with a sexually transmitted disease and what it could mean for the state.
Dave Wilson, acting agency director, said the number of gonorrhea and syphilis cases have risen. Some counties are seen nearly triple digits case numbers. Wilson said since HIV is no longer considered a death sentence, people are not as careful as they once were. He said this is leading to an increase in other STD infections.
The agency would like another $1 million added to the state budget to help it decrease the rate of STDs. He said the money would be used to hire 12 new employees in four regions of the state.
Wilson said the employees would work in teams. He said they would work to reduce the long DHEC clinics’ waiting times, boost their efforts to reach state citizens and work to improve relations between clinical and field staffers.
He said the model would help the agency to decrease the number of infection.
In 2016, the number of gonorrhea cases was 9,301, which is up from 8,285 the year before. The DHEC said there were 3,024 cases in the Midlands. In 2015, that number was 2,726. Richland County also saw an increase from 1,002 to 1,201 (2015 to 2016).
Greenville state rep. Garry Smith said he’s concerned that the extra help would not lead to a rise in people seeking treatment at the clinics.
Wilson said the new DHEC employees would make it easier for the agency to track people down who were diagnosed with an STD and they would reduce the long waiting times where people go for treatment.
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Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are caused by a variety of microorganisms. These agents cause genital tract infections that are often overlooked due to the absence of specific symptoms. The silent nature of these infections can prevent early diagnosis and delay possible treatment. Lack of symptoms will also facilitate disease transmission from to person to person or to the fetus during pregnancy. The availability of effective vaccines may effectively reduce the risk of contracting an STD and enhance existing prevention programs.