Major STD epidemic spreading in Hamilton County

CINCINNATI - An epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases is spreading throughout Hamilton County. A new report shows that Hamilton County has STD rates above the national average.

Health officials say to tackle the problem more effectively they need money to follow up on infected patients. The health department is urging the city to focus on education to help stop the spread of disease.

Cincinnati city councilman Cecil Thomas expressed his concern.

"Health is a priority in our city and we have to focus there, I can't vote for anything else until we get this mess under control, 32 percent (for every) 100,000, compared to 3.2 per the entire country?"

Those statistics reflect the rate for Syphilis in Hamilton County which is nine times higher than the national average. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia rates have also increased.

"The number of cases which approached 6,800 for Chlamydia and 2,500 for Gonorrhea in Hamilton County is just too high for us to do meaningful follow up on cases," Dr. Larry Holditch of the Cincinnati Health Department said.

Rocky Merz from the Cincinnati Health Department explained that cuts in staffing and educational programs are to blame for the higher rates.

"The local funding has been cut so we have much less to cut the holes of local funding, the Health Department Budget was cut by 25 percent in 2006-2010 and then another 25 percent between 2010-1011," Merz said.

A new report released by Xavier University tried to figure out some solutions to the issue.

"The key thing is that we need to get the health department with enough funding in our budget for people to come in be diagnosed quickly, easily, treated and then go away," said Eddie Hooker, Assistant Professor for Health Services at Xavier University.

Another solution health officials said was teaching adolescent children about the risk of STDs and diseases. They say their efforts have been rejected by Cincinnati Public Schools.

"Venues don't allow us to pass out condoms; the Cincinnati Public Schools does not allow condoms in the school even though we know that youth are at a high risk for getting all types of STDs as well as Syphilis, when the average age for sex in Hamilton County is 12 and a half," a Cincinnati Health Department official explained.

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