Entries in STD (11)


CDC Warns of Super-Gonorrhea

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Valentine’s Day: a time for roses, chocolates, champagne and being with that special someone.  But before celebrating with reckless abandon, information released this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds lovers to proceed with caution and practice safe sex.

The report from the CDC describes how Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria that causes the sexually transmitted infection, or STI, gonorrhea, has become resistant to many forms of antibiotics since the 1930s.  The bug continues to trouble disease experts as it morphs into strains that scientists call “multidrug-resistant gonorrhea.”

Lab studies show that cephalosporins, the current class of antibiotics used to treat gonorrhea, are becoming less effective at treating the disease. If this trend continues, cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea could emerge in the U.S., like it has in Japan, France and Spain. To help delay the emergence of this new super bug, the CDC made changes to guidelines for gonorrhea treatment. An injectable cephalosporin called ceftriaxone combined with an oral antibiotic is now the preferred treatment.

Gonorrhea is the second-most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States. In 2011, more than 300,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported.

“The continued threat of multidrug-resistant gonorrhea makes protecting against [gonorrhea] more important than before,” said Dr. Lindsey Satterwhite, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.

Satterwhite emphasizes the need for safe sexual practices. “Wear a condom correctly, think about abstinence, practice monogamy, and get appropriate screening if you’re high risk,” she said. Left untreated, STIs can wreak havoc on the reproductive organs, causing severe medical problems and affecting the ability to have children later in life.

New statistics released from the CDC this week show that these preventative measures are especially important in young people ages 15-24, who account for 50 percent of new STIs. The statistics also reveal the economic burden of STIs. An estimated 20 million people are diagnosed each year in the U.S. Treating these infections cost the U.S. healthcare system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs.

According to the CDC, the numbers reflect an ongoing, severe STI epidemic.

Satterwhite called this is a wake-up call for the U.S. healthcare system. “People need to remember that all STIs are preventable, treatable, and many curable,” she said. “There’s lots of opportunity to save the nation’s health and save billions of dollars a year in healthcare dollars, especially for the younger population.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


‘Bumping’ Your Way to Safer Sex With a Smartphone App

(NEW YORK) -- Let’s face it.  Teens have sex.  Parents may choose to ignore it, and teens may choose to deny it, but almost 50 percent of American high school students are having sex, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. And each year, millions of those sexually active teens contract sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes and HIV.

Now one doctor hopes to curb the spread of STDs in this tech savvy group with a smartphone app that lets users “bump” their STD status.

It’s called ‘safe bumping,’” said Dr. Michael Nusbaum, the New Jersey developer of MedXSafe, a feature of the new app called MedXCom.  “If you happen to be out at a bar or a fraternity house or wherever, and you meet someone, you can then bump phones and exchange contact information and STD status.”

The app’s special feature, according to Nussbaum, encourages dating singles to go to the doctor for regular STD checks.  Those who screen negative can ask their doctors to document their STD-free status on the app, allowing users to share the information with whomever they choose.

An alarming 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur each year, and rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are on the rise, according to a new report released this month by the CDC.  More than 1.4 million chlamydia infections were reported in 2011, up 8 percent from the previous year.  Cases of gonorrhea were up by 4 percent, marking the second consecutive year of increases.

Nearly half of all infections occur in young people, between the ages of 15 to 24, a group that can be particularly devastated by the associated health effects.

“[Some] undetected and untreated STDs can increase a person’s risk for HIV and cause other serious health consequences, such as infertility,” said Mary McFarlane, an acting chief in the Division of STD Prevention at the CDC.  Harnessing modern social networking technology to prevent these infections may appeal to a younger tech-savvy generation.

MedXSafe is just one of several Internet-based programs devoted to easing confidential STD-status sharing between sexual partners.  Services like, whose slogan is Spread the Love, Nothing Else and U Should Know, designed by a former college student and his girlfriend, also allow their users to check on a partner’s STD status.

But could these services offer a false sense of security to teens who believe that, with a simple phone bump, they have the green light to have unprotected sex?

“It can take months for HIV to show up on a test,” said Renee Williams, executive director of SAFE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to abstinence education.  “So you can test negative today, go out on Friday night and have sex, and then get retested later and find out that you had HIV all along.”

The app does nothing to prevent unplanned pregnancy, and may even encourage high-risk behaviors that young people might otherwise not have been tempted to try, said Williams.

Nor is the app likely to be completely reliable, said Dr. J. Joseph Speidel, director of communication at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health.

“Does it come with a condom?” asked Dr. Richard Besser, ABC’s chief health and medical editor, who’s also a pediatrician and former acting director at the CDC.

But the app’s creator said it does promote regular STD testing and encourages potential partners to openly discuss safe sex practices.

“We’re recognizing that this behavior is going to take place no matter what we do or what we say,” said Nusbaum.  “I have friends that are nuns and I’ve run this by them, and they also agree that it’s promoting safer behaviors.”

Although each program promises to keep health information strictly confidential, none are immune from cyber attacks.

But such attacks would not expose any users who have an STD, according to Nusbaum.  MedXSafe does not allow doctors to upload information about any tests that come back positive, including HIV.  A user with an infection is simply treated for the STD and then retested.  And that user is only confirmed STD-free via the app once subsequent test results come back negative.

Still, it is too early to tell whether these services will become popular with teens.  Lingering social stigma surrounding STDs might make potential partners reluctant to mention such an app when out at a party.

“It’s a big personal step to bring up using such an app,” said Noah Bloom, creator of a smartphone app called Jiber, which uses the same “bump” technology to electronically connect new friends.  “Who really wants anything in the way of getting lucky?”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Woman Wins $1M Suit against Dentist Who Gave Her STD

Hemera/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Unsafe sex can be costly, nearly a million dollars in this case. After four days of testimony and two hours of deliberation, a jury has awarded an Oregon woman $900,000 in damages because she contracted genital herpes after a liaison with a retired dentist.

“The jury essentially said if a person knows he has an STD, he has a duty to inform a sex partner before, not after,” said Randall Vogt, the woman’s attorney.

Vogt’s client, who sued under a pseudonym, met the retired dentist, 69, on an Internet dating website in 2010 and went on three dates, he said. On the fourth, they had sex.

The woman, 49, handed her partner a condom, but his sexual advances took over too quickly, she says. After intercourse, as the two lay in bed discussing their connection, the man decided to open up and revealed he had herpes, according to the lawsuit. The woman kicked him out of her home.

Eleven days later, the woman had a painful outbreak, which she continues to have periodically. Antiviral medication caused her to lose her hair and she has since gained weight from the drugs she takes to treat the depression caused by the herpes, the lawsuit alleged.

Defense attorney Shawn Lillegren argued that the woman was careless and money-hungry.  “Grow up. Come on. You’re an adult. He’s an adult. They had sex,” Lillegren said, according to the Oregonian.

But the jury didn’t buy it, and Tuesday found the man 75 percent liable for negligence and completely liable for civil battery.

Vogt said this kind of lawsuit is “extremely rare” because it’s often hard to prove where the victim contracted the STD. He also said embarrassment plays a factor in deterring victims from confronting former partners in court.

He hopes his client set a new precedent.

“When people learn they can be sued for transmitting an STD to another person,” he said, “it is going to encourage people to be more careful and less reckless about their contact.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sex Life of Older Adults and Rising STDs

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The sex life of older adults is getting new attention in the face of some staggering statistics.

Rates of sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have doubled for people in their 50s, 60s and 70s in the past decade, but safe sex awareness among older adults and its promotion by doctors is still lagging, according to an article published Friday by researchers at Kings College and Saint Thomas’s Hospital in London.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 885 reported cases of syphilis in 45- to 64-year-olds in 2000; in 2010, there were more than 2,500. In 2000, there were 6,700 cases of chlamydia in this age group; the number ballooned to more than 19,000 by 2010.

The numbers of older people with HIV  has nearly doubled, and 15 percent of new diagnoses of HIV in the U.S. were in people age 50 and older in 2005, which is the most recent year that the CDC calculated the risk for this age group.

The researchers say it’s hard to know just why STD rates are on the rise among older people, mostly because there’s been so little research on the sex lives of older adults.

“Unfortunately, until the public health data started to show a rise [in disease rates], no one did any research at all,” said Rachel von Simson, the report’s lead author and a medical student at Kings College London. “We just know there are more infections being diagnosed now than in the past.”

Biological changes and the rise of drugs for erectile dysfunction may be setting the mood for the rise. Postmenopausal changes to the vagina, such as decreased lubrication, make older women more vulnerable to infections, and pills like Viagra let men have sexual intercourse at older ages than ever before.

Eli Coleman, director of the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said longer lives and more divorces may be leading older people to have more sex partners than in years past. The generation’s view of condoms and safe sex is also probably less well-informed than their children’s.

A 2010 study of sexual health from Indiana University found the lowest rates of condom use were among people ages 45 and older.

The authors of the current study said doctors often shy away from discussing sexual health with their older patients or may not view STDs as a risk at all. And health education campaigns heavily promote safe sex for teenagers and young adults, but ads urging older adults to use condoms are rare.

“People think this is a problem of youth, and there’s a sense of invulnerability and ignorance among older adults,” Coleman said. “We need to urge physicians to not look at some patients as not at risk.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: AIDS Treatment Works for Herpes Too

Hemera/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- A vaginal gel that was originally created to protect against the AIDS virus in women showed bonus results when it proved even more effective in fighting the genital herpes virus, according to a new study from researchers at the National Institutes of Health, Gilead Sciences Inc. and universities in Belgium and Italy.

The New York Times reported that the microbicide gel reduced the risk of herpes infection among the 450 women by 51 percent. The gel also reduced the risk of AIDS in healthy women by 39 percent. Given the prevalence of herpes and HIV around the world, doctors believe the surprising results could be an important advance in treatment and protection.

But the gel would still take years to get to the consumer market, researchers say.

Genital herpes is not fatal, but it is painful and stamped with a heavy social stigma. About 20 percent of sexually active adults worldwide have genital herpes, according to the World Health Organization and reported in the New York Times. It can be spread through skin-to-skin contact during sex, along with vaginal fluids and semen, even if neither partner shows the tell-tale sores.

The unexpected reduced risk of the herpes infection came from a 2010 trial conducted in South Africa, which found that the gel reduced the risk of AIDS infection by 39 percent.

“The tenofovir trial is being repeated to ensure that the results regarding HIV protection are real and are generalizable,” Justin O’Hagen, an infectious disease epidemiology doctoral student at Harvard School of Public Health, told ABC News. Tenofovir, made by Gilead -- which participated in the microbicide study -- is used in tandem with other antiviral meds to fight HIV. "Undoubtedly they will also collect further data on tenofovir’s effect on herpes so there will be even more publications on this, roughly in early 2013.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Florida Health Officials Say Have That Sex Talk With Grandpa

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Alana, a 63-year-old from New York, sent an article underlining pertinent facts on the rising rate of sexually transmitted diseases among seniors to her mother, a widow in her 80s living in a 50-plus senior complex in Florida.

The former teacher, who asked that her real name not be used, hoped to inform her independent mother, who had started dating again and had a new boyfriend. But Alana was not prepared for her mother's response.

"She called me and was indignant and claimed that she and her 'friend' did not have sex," Alana said. "I have no idea if she was telling me the truth, but it's possible she was. She did, however, tell me that the very few men who lived in her senior development were in high demand and that many of them went out with multiple partners."

"Now, 'went out' with might have been code for sex, but I'm not really sure," she said. "I think the advent of Viagra and similar drugs has made possible what was once unlikely."

She's right. Sex and sexually transmitted diseases are not just for the young anymore. Drugs such as Viagra for men and hormone supplements for women mean that Americans are staying active well into their 60s, 70s and even 80s.

And now some health officials have launched a multi-pronged prevention program aimed squarely at senior citizens, including reversing the tables and asking "children" to have those awkward conversations with their aging parents.

The Florida Department of Health is encouraging younger people to talk to their older parents about sex, the talk they once received as children, according to a report in the Miami Herald.

In 2009, nearly 20 percent of all new HIV and 25 percent of all AIDS diagnoses in Florida were in those older than 50. More than half of the cases were among those who live in South Florida, according to the Broward County Health Department.

Some state projections say that the majority of people with the disease will be seniors by the year 2015.

Many older Americans are now sexually active, but might not be practicing safe sex. They might be less knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS and therefore less likely to protect themselves with condoms or seek testing, health experts say.

That trend is also reflected nationally. In 2005, 15 percent of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses were among those older than 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC).

"For many people, when we discuss this at senior complexes or groups, no one's ever had this discussion with them," Evelyn Ullah, the STD, HIV and AIDS prevention director with the Broward County Health Department, told the Miami Herald. "As a result, they don't perceive themselves at risk."

Bob Brand, a dapper 91-year-old and Holocaust survivor from Valhalla, N.Y., was equally surprised by the news that seniors are at risk for HIV/AIDS.

His wife died three years ago and women eager to date swarmed to his door.

"I had been married to my wife and never had any problems with her," said Brand, a former elevator company owner who hadn't thought much about sexually transmitted diseases since he served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

"I am really surprised," he said. "You know sexual activity now is totally different than it was in our lives. People do it a lot more than we ever did. It's hard to understand."

Health experts say younger Americans who are newer to the dating scene are probably in the best position to address these delicate issues so openly with their older family members.

"It's going to be embarrassing," said Marlene LaLota, HIV prevention director for the state, who said leaving literature on the table can also get the conversation going.

"Anything that gets the ball rolling," LaLota told the Miami Herald. "Remember, the roles were reversed once upon a time, where it was the mother having the conversation with the daughter 30 or 40 years ago."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


STD Testing Hits L.A. Streets, Free for Women

L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas(LOS ANGELES) -- Sexual health clinics are hitting the streets in South Los Angeles, where women can now pick up home tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea from kiosks and a mobile health van.

The program, launched by L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, aims to curb the city’s troubling rise in sexually transmitted diseases. L.A. leads the nation in the number of chlamydia cases, and has the second-highest number of gonorrhea cases, most of them centered in the city’s south end.

“Unfortunately, these infectious diseases are at unacceptable levels and are increasing, particularly among young African-American women,” Ridley-Thomas said in a statement. “These are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters who are suffering from the health consequences of these STDs, and we cannot let them go untreated. Families depend upon them, communities depend upon them, but you can’t treat what you don’t know exists.”

The kiosks and van are an extension of the ongoing “I Know” initiative to raise STD awareness and increase testing. Until now, “I Know” provided free testing kits that could be ordered via mobile phones and the Web. In its first year, 2,927 kits were ordered and 1,543 testable swabs were returned, 131 came back positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most common infectious diseases in the U.S., affecting more than 1.5 million people — mostly women. When detected, the diseases are curable. But they can cause serious health complications, including sterility, if left untreated.

“Easy diagnostic testing and effective single-dose treatments mean there is no reason for anyone now to suffer infertility, tubal pregnancy, complications for newborns, or other serious long-term consequences of these unnecessarily common STDs,” L.A. County health officer Dr. Jonathan Fielding said in a statement.

Fielding added that most cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea are symptomless, and that regular screening is the only effective way to stop their spread.

The “I Know” kit and subsequent lab tests cost $26. But L.A. women will get it for free.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gov't Commission Finds 83 Guatemalans Died in US-Led Experiments

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A commission set up last year by President Obama has revealed that 83 Guatemalans died in U.S. government research that infected hundreds of prisoners, prostitutes, and mental patients with the syphilis bacteria to study the drug penicillin -- a project that the group called "a shameful piece of medical history."

"The report is good and I applaud the Obama administration for giving it some sunshine," said Dr. Howard Markel, a pediatrician and medical historian from the University of Michigan.  "Internationally, what we do as a human society is to make sure that these things never happen again."

But medical ethicists say that even if today's research is not as egregious as the Guatemala experiment, American companies are still testing drugs on poor, sometimes unknowing populations in the developing world.

Many, like Markel, note that experimenting with AIDS drugs in Africa and other pharmaceutical trials in Third World countries, "goes on every day."

"It's not good enough, in my opinion, to protect only people who live in the developed world -- but all human beings," he said.

The U.S. Public Health Service and the Pan American Sanitary Bureau worked with several Guatemalan government agencies from 1946 to 1948, exposing nearly 1,300 people to the sexually transmitted diseases syphilis, gonorrhea, or chancroid.  They infected soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners and mental patients -- more than 5,500 people in all were part of the medical experimentation.  

The presidential panel said government scientists knew they were violating ethical rules.

Scientists wanted to see if penicillin, which was a relatively new drug, could prevent infections.  The research was paid for with U.S. tax dollars and culled no useful medical information.

This week, the Obama commission revealed that only 700 of them received treatment and 83 died by 1953.  The commission could not confirm whether the deaths were a direct cause of those infections.

In the 1940s, syphilis was a major health threat, causing blindness, insanity and even death.  Many of the same researchers had carried out studies on prisoners in Terre Haute, Indiana, but unlike the Guatemalan research, they gave consent.

For years, the experiments were secret, until Susan M. Reverby, a medical historian at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, found the records of Dr. John Cutler, who led the experiments.  A federal commission to learn more was set up last year.

President Obama has apologized to Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom.  A final report is due in December.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Super Gonorrhea: Scientists Discover Antibiotic-Resistant STD

Photodisc/Thinkstock(ÖREBRO, Sweden) -- Scientists have discovered a new strain of gonorrhea-causing bacteria in Japan that is resistant to available treatments.

Since the 1940s, the sexually transmitted disease known as "the clap" has been easily treated with antibiotics. But the new strain of Neisseria gonorrhoeae has genetically mutated to evade cephalosporins -- the only antibiotics still effective against the infection.

"This is both an alarming and a predictable discovery," lead researcher Magnus Unemo, professor at the Swedish Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria in Örebro, Sweden, said in a statement. "Since antibiotics became the standard treatment for gonorrhea in the 1940s, this bacterium has shown a remarkable capacity to develop resistance mechanisms to all drugs introduced to control it."

The discovery, announced by Unemo at the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research meeting in Quebec City, Canada, could hail gonorrhea's transition from treatable STD to global public health threat.

"While it is still too early to assess if this new strain has become widespread, the history of newly emergent resistance in the bacterium suggests that it may spread rapidly unless new drugs and effective treatment programs are developed," Unemo said in a statement.

Cephalosporin-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae joins methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant enterococci in a sinister class of bacteria known as "superbugs." But unlike hospital-acquired MRSA and VRE, which spread where antibiotic use runs high and immune defenses run low, super gonorrhea could spread anywhere.

"This report points out that antibiotic resistance is occurring not only in hospitals, but out in the community," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. And while the strain was discovered in Kyoto, Japan, antibiotic-resistant bacteria "don't need a passport."

Antibiotic resistance is not a new phenomenon -- even for Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which developed resistance to several other antibiotics used before cephalosporins.

"We were concerned about this 20 years ago and combated that very effectively," said Schaffner, explaining how gonorrhea treatments have evolved alongside the bacteria. "But if you have a strain that's completely resistant to antibiotics, you have to very quickly develop strategies to recognize the resistant strain and alternative treatment regimens."

Such tests and new treatments could be developed, Schaffner said, but they would likely be more expensive. Amid cutbacks across all facets of research, pharmaceutical companies are investing less in the quest for new antibiotics, he said.

With an estimated 700,000 new cases each year in the U.S. alone, gonorrhea is one of the most common STDs. It spreads through direct contact with the penis, vagina, mouth or anus, and can also be transmitted from mom to baby during delivery.

But only 50 percent of infected women and less than five percent of infected men develop symptoms, such as a burning sensation and discharge. Left untreated, the infection can spread to the skin, blood and other organs causing pain, infertility and even death.

A July 8, 2011, report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged doctors to be on the lookout for gonorrhea resistant to cephalosporins, and to report cases promptly.

The new superbug serves as a reminder that antibiotic resistance is a problem that spreads beyond hospital and nursing home walls.

"We need to implement a program so that pharmaceutical companies are motivated financially to pursue research in developing antibiotics," Schaffner said. "And both the public and professional have to be much more rigorous in their expectations and use of antibiotics."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Large, Long-Term Study Finds Discrepancy on Teen Abstinence Claims

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- A multi-year study of more than 14,000 teens finds many reported abstinence from sex, but were still infected with typically sexually-transmitted diseases.  Roughly 10 percent of those in the large study who tested positive for an STD said they had not had sex over the past year.  Half said they had never had sex at all.

One of the study's authors, Jessica McDermott Sales of Emory University in Atlanta, says dishonesty is one explanation, but not the only one.  She is quoted in The New York Times as saying, "This is a fairly sizable portion of kids who are saying they're not sexually active when they apparently are."

The more than 14,000 participants in the study were first questioned in 1994 and then surveyed again in 2001 and 2002.  Significantly, those who reported having had sex were only twice as likely to be infected with an STD as those who reported no sexual activity -- a reportedly small difference, in statistical terms.

The research appears in the January edition of Pediatrics.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio