The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

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August 23, 2012

Edgecombe No. 1 in state for HIV STD’s found in two preschoolers

TARBORO — Leslie Arnold, communicable disease supervisor with the Edgecombe County Health Department, shared some good news and bad news about communicable diseases at Tuesday night’s board of health meeting.

“We still are No. 1 in the state for HIV rates,” said Arnold. “With syphilis [rates], Edgecombe County dropped to No. 13 in North Carolina.”

The county had six new cases of syphilis and 10 new cases of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) during the past fiscal year (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012), compared to 18 new cases of syphilis and 15 new cases of HIV the previous year. Chlamydia and gonorrhea rates both increased, by 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Overall 1,168 cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) were reported last year. Two cases were in children under the age of 5, which are being investigated by the Department of Social Services. Of the STD cases reported, 1,007 were black, 96 were white, two were Native American and 60 were of unknown race.

“When I hear those numbers, it really tells me that the moral fiber of our community is declining,” said Viola Harris, board of health member and county commissioner.  “We want to be No. 1 in SAT scores and those types of things, not in HIV and AIDS.”

The majority of the cases were in teenagers and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24.

“That’s our up and coming population. We need them healthy,” said Harris. She said she would like to launch a marketing campaign to improve the health of Edgecombe County citizens. At Tuesday night’s meeting, health department administrators said they are willing to do HIV testing at any site, for any organization, in Edgecombe County, upon invitation. Karen Lachapelle, health department director, said that the department does HIV testing and education at unconventional places such as the jail and the homeless shelter in order to combat the county’s high HIV incidence rates.

Harris said she would like churches and non-profit organizations to take advantage of the resources that the health department has to offer. She also said she would like to see an “intensive” sex education program in the public school system, but parents have the ultimate responsibility for their children’s health education.

“It’s going to have to start at home with parents addressing the issue to our children,” said

Harris. “We know we want abstinence to be the No. 1 thing, but we also want to be realists … We’ve got to talk about those things.”

A related issue in Edgecombe County is the teen pregnancy rate. During the 2011-2012 school year, 24 pregnant students were identified, five of whom were in middle school. School RN Heather  Campbell shared those statistics with the board at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Campbell also told the board about a new health initiative in public schools this year — Body Mass Index (BMI) screening, which will take place at the same time as student vision screening. BMI is a measure of a person’s body fat, based on his/ her ratio of height and weight. Dr. Robin Webb Corbett, board of health chair, said she would like to see the county’s efforts to address childhood obesity improve.

“I think that’s an area where we need to do work,” she said. The county’s adult obesity rate in 2011 was 37 percent, compared to a statewide rate of 29 percent, according to the 2011 state of the county health report. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart diseases caused primarily by leading an unhealthy lifestyle are the county’s top causes of death.

 

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