The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 17, 2013

STDs a growing concern in Edgecombe County

Disease totals down, but HIV/AIDS numbers still top state

By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER

TARBORO — Edgecombe County’s communicable disease rates decreased in the last fiscal year, but the county’s HIV/ AIDS rates are still No. 1 in the state.

Human services board members also expressed concerns about reports of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in county 10-14 year olds.

The health department had a 21.85 percent decrease in communicable disease reports from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, communicable disease supervisor Leslie Arnold reported at Tuesday’s board meeting.

The department confirmed 47 communicable diseases, 25 of which were foodborne diseases, and had 913 reported cases of STDs.

Seven new HIV and four new AIDS cases were reported last fiscal year. The three-year (2009-11) average rate of diagnosed HIV in Edgecombe County was 40.8 per 100,000, compared to the state’s rate of 40.8 per 100,000.

During that same timeframe, the county ranked No. 2 in the state for gonorrhea rates, No. 7 for syphilis (early) rates, and No. 8 for chlamydia rates.

Out of the total number of STD cases reported in the county last fiscal year, 36.79 percent were in the age range of 20-24, 84.87 percent were black, and 74.04 percent were female. Nine of the cases were in 10-14-year-olds.

“I’ve got a concern about those 10-14 year olds,” said Dr. Robin Webb Corbett, board vice chair.

“We have several (cases) that it was reported to DSS and the police, accordingly,” Arnold said.

Board member Othar Woodard recommended taking a closer look at all the cases involving 10-14-year-olds.

“It could be an issue of neglect,” he said.

Rev. Roy Gray, board member, also questioned why the health department wouldn’t follow up with all nine of the STD cases in pre-teens.

“The person that does the testing and owns the test is responsible for the care of the patient. If the health department does the test, then they know that there is a concern,” Gray said.

If the patient sees a private healthcare provider, that provider is responsible for the follow-up, she said.

“If we suspect, we’re going to follow the law. There’s no question about that,” said Health Director Karen Lachapelle.

Corbett spoke from the perspective of a private healthcare provider.

“We are required by law to report any suspected child abuse or neglect,” Corbett said. “I can tell you that this is a serious problem and we work to address it. This is something healthcare professionals take very seriously.”

Board member Rose Wooten asked inquired about how students and parents are educated about the STD figures.

Lachapelle responded that health department staff was invited to go into the schools and teach sex education years ago, but that is no longer the case.

Corbett recommended that the board meet with the board of education and school superintendent and share the STD statistics with them so they could work together to address the concerns.

The board also asked about community education. Glenn Filkins, HIV outreach coordinator for the health department, responded to that question.

“I have biweekly testing in the Edgecombe County jail,” Filkins said.

He said he also offers testing and educational sessions at homeless shelters, adult daycare facilities, “high-traffic” areas such as barbershops, and churches, upon invitation. In July, he said the department started an HIV testing program with Vidant Edgecombe Hospital.

“If they come into the emergency room and they are considered ‘high risk’…the hospital draws their blood,” Filkins said.

Filkins follows up with the patients and offers them counseling.

The high-risk patients can opt out of the testing if they choose.