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Health officials team with churches to fight STDs in South L.A.

September 19, 2011 |  2:27 pm

Motivated by rising rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia among young black women in South Los Angeles, county leaders and public health officials launched a new education and testing campaign Monday with some unlikely partner: churches.

Pastors and "first ladies" from churches throughout the region said they planned to raise awareness about the diseases among their congregations and to spread the word about a home-testing program.

“Nobody wants to talk about it,” said Debra Williams, wife of the pastor at McCoy Memorial Baptist Church. “We need to change that.”

The campaign, led by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Department of Public Health Director Jonathan Fielding, will increase access to free test kits and information about both diseases through kiosks and a mobile health van. Health officials will also be working with clinics to increase follow-up with patients and with schools to increase prevention education.

Los Angeles County has more chlamydia cases than any other county in the nation and ranks second in the nation for numbers of gonorrhea cases, according to a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, about 45,400 chlamydia cases and 10,400 gonorrhea cases were reported in Los Angeles County. A disproportionate number of those are in the 2nd Supervisorial District, which encompasses South Los Angeles and two dozen other communities.

“The data is striking,” Ridley-Thomas said to a crowd of church leaders, school officials and public health workers at the new King Center for Public Health. “We cannot turn our backs.”


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