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ACCORDING to data collected by the Department of Public Health and Social Services’ STD/HIV Program (SHP), there has been a rise in cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. This is alarming because an increase in cases of STDs may lead to an increase in cases of HIV, officials said.
This increase in STDs may be attributed to a rise in unprotected sex, multiple sex partners, and a lack of knowledge among the youth.
The problem begins with the increasing number of STDs such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. High instances of these cases increases the risk of contracting HIV, the SHP report pointed out. Moreover, subjects who have contracted an STD are more susceptible to contracting HIV.
Click here for a breakdown of several figures provided by the DPHSS STD/HIV Program.
Bernadette P. Schumann, SHP supervisor, said the main problems they see include patients who have multiple sex partners, a lack of communication between parents and children in terms of sex education, and people having unprotected sex.
The transient population of Guam is also a problem, Schuman added. Between tourists, the military and people moving through the islands, people meet people and leave, sometimes with diseases.
“The problem is dealing with your only partner’s other partners,” Schuman noted. “This behavior is not going to stop.”
According to data collected by the SHP:
- The total number of syphilis cases last year was 26. Since the beginning of this year, 17 cases have already been reported.
- The total number of gonorrhea cases last year was 96. Since the beginning of this year, 36 cases have been reported.
- The total number of chlamydia cases last year was 1,071. Since the beginning of this year, 478 cases have been reported.
In terms of HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed between 1985 to 2011, about half of the cases were Pacific Islanders, which consist of Chamorro (43 percent), Chuukese (8 percent), and Belauans, Marshallese, and Pohnpeians (4 percent).
According to the HIV report, the age group most diagnosed with HIV was the 30 to 39 age group, making up 42 percent of cases in the past 36 years. However, in recent data collection, the 15 to 19 age group is shown to be more at risk of contracting STDs.
Transmission categories of HIV are predominately through male-to-male sexual contact at 44 percent, with heterosexual contacts at 22 percent.
“Just over half (51 percent) of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed on Guam reported having male-to-male sexual relations. Reports of heterosexual relations as a risk factor have increased over the last 15 years, however, in conjunction with the increase in female HIV/AIDS diagnoses,” states the HIV Surveillance Report, written in February this year.
What is being done?
SHP continues to work with community organizations, such as Guam’s Alternative Lifestyle Association (GALA) and University of Guam students and health organizations. They focus on the prevention and treatment of STDs and HIV/AIDS. They encourage all citizens to find out their status through the “Get Yourself Tested” campaign.
SHP also coordinates with regional and federal organizations. A summit is planned for November to include representatives from the other Micronesian islands to discuss the implementation of prevention strategies. Last week Friday, Ed Tepporn, from the Asian & Pacific Islander Health Forum based in San Francisco, discussed federal strategies for the SHP.
For more information on STDs, HIV/AIDS and the STD/HIV Program and to view statistics in full, click here.