The Department of Health and Environmental Control is worried about what a rise in the number of sexually transmitted diseases could mean for South Carolina.
In particular, cases of syphilis and gonorrhea have increased, acting agency director Dave Wilson told House lawmakers Wednesday. Some counties – particularly those in metropolitan areas – are reporting increases in the double to triple digits in the number of cases.
"Since HIV is not a death sentence anymore — it's treatable — that has put things in a situation where other infections are increasing," Wilson said. "People aren't being as careful."
The agency wants the S.C. Legislature to give it nearly $1 million in added money in the state budget that starts July 1 to help reduce the rate of sexually transmitted diseases. That money would cover the cost of hiring 12 new employees – split among the state’s four regions.
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Wilson said those employees would work in teams, helping to decrease long waiting times at DHEC clinics, increasing outreach efforts and building a better relationship between field and clinical staffers. “We feel that that model would certainly help us reduce those affected.”
There were 9,301 cases of gonorrhea statewide in 2016, up from 8,285 in 2015. Of those cases, 3,024 were in the Midlands, compared to 2,726 in 2015, DHEC reported. In Richland County, there were 1,201 cases in 2016, up from 1,002 in 2015.
The Midlands also topped the state in cases of syphilis in 2016.
There were 994 syphilis cases statewide in 2016, up from 977 in 2015. Of those cases, 340 were in the Midlands, down from 381 in 2015. Richland County had 190 cases of syphilis in 2016, down from 237 in 2015.
State Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, told Wilson he is worried that extra staffing would not bring infected people into clinics for treatment.
However, with new employees, DHEC would be better able to track down people who are diagnosed with STDs, Wilson said. The new staffers also would lessen the already long waiting times at clinics, where many infected people choose to go for treatment rather than their doctor.
“This is the best identified best practice,” Wilson said.
STDs rise in S.C.
Cases of sexually-transmitted infections are rising in South Carolina, S.C. House lawmakers learned Wednesday. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control wants the Legislature to give it added money to help reduce the rates:
▪ 9,301: Total number of cases of gonorrhea reported statewide in 2016, compared to 8,285 in 2015
▪ 1,201: Total number of cases of gonorrhea reported in Richland County in 2016, up from 1,002 in 2015
▪ 994: Total number of syphilis cases reported statewide in 2016, up from 977 in 2015
▪ 190: Total number of syphilis cases reported in Richland County in 2016, down from 237 in 2015
SOURCE: S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control