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San Diego’s STD Rate Higher Than National Average


M. Winston Tilghman, M.D., STD controller, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency

Sheldon Morris, M.D., Assistant Professor, UC San Diego School of Medicine, studies infectious disease epidemiology focusing on the prevention of STI and HIV.


The increase in sexually transmitted diseases in San Diego outpaced the nationwide uptick in 2012, according to a report out Monday.

In figures compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, increases were discovered both nationally and locally for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Gonorrhea cases increased 4.1 percent in the U.S. for men and women, but the national rate for men was 8.3 percent. In San Diego, incidences of gonorrhea increased 19 percent to nearly 83 cases per every 100,000 people. About 30 percent of the cases were in men ages 20-29.

Syphilis went up 11 percent nationally, with three-quarters of the cases involving men who had sex with other men, according to the CDC. The San Diego rate jumped 12 percent in 2012 to 10.4 cases per every 100,000 people -- 85 percent involving sex between men.

Nationally, chlamydia cases rose 0.7 percent, compared to 6 percent in San Diego County, according to a report from the county's Heath and Human Services Agency.

Chlamydia rates in San Diego increased from 496 cases per 100,000 residents in 2011 to 526 cases per 100,000 residents in 2012. Forty-five percent of the 16,545 local chlamydia cases were reported in women 24 years of age and under. Rates in men increased 9 percent from 2011 to 2012.

"Sexually transmitted diseases are a silent, national epidemic," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. "Doctors need to talk to their patients, and patients need to be open with their medical providers and disclose their sexual history."

Dr. M. Winston Tilghman, the senior physician and STD controller for the county Health and Human Services Agency, said people can decrease their risk of infection by openly discussing STDs, condom use and mutual monogamy with their partners.

Preliminary figures show the rates of infections per 100,000 in 2013 were similar to 2012, Tilghman said. He said the 2013 statistics are not yet available for release.

Last year, the county started a free home testing program for gonorrhea and chlamydia available to women 25 and younger that can be accessed at or by calling (619) 692-5669.

The county also operates four STD clinics, which offer testing and treatment for most STDs on a walk-in basis. The service is part of the county's Live Well San Diego initiative, which aims to improve the health and well-being of all San Diegans.

KPBS' Maureen Cavanaugh, Patty Lane and Peggy Pico contributed to the Midday and Evening Edition segments.

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