Parkland takes action to combat maternal syphilis crisis in Dallas

Parkland Health has launched a series of initiatives aimed at curbing the spread of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, and raising awareness about the importance of STI screenings, in response to the rising number of cases in Dallas County. The post Parkland takes action to combat maternal syphilis crisis in Dallas appeared first on Dallas Examiner.

Parkland takes action to combat maternal syphilis crisis in Dallas

(Special to The Dallas Examiner) – More than 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in the United States in 2022, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In response to the trend, Parkland Health has launched a series of initiatives aimed at curbing the spread of these sexually transmitted infections and raising awareness about the importance of STI screenings.

Dr. Emily Adhikari, director of Perinatal Infectious Diseases for Parkland Health, underscored the urgency of addressing this public health crisis locally.

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“Syphilis poses significant risks to both maternal and fetal health. It is critical that pregnant women receive timely screenings and treatment to prevent transmission to their babies,” she said.

Reported cases of syphilis and gonorrhea have increased every year in Dallas County since 2015, according to data published in the 2022 Dallas County Community Health Needs Assessment. Dallas County recorded more than 3,000 cases of syphilis and more than 10,000 cases of gonorrhea in 2020. Although slightly down from the year prior, more than 17,000 cases of chlamydia were still reported in 2020 and 688 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Dallas County as well.

Nationally, syphilis rates have reached unprecedented levels unseen since 1950 and the medical community has sounded the alarm on the dangers posed by this preventable infection – particularly for pregnant women and their unborn children. Maternal syphilis can lead to devastating consequences, including stillbirths, neonatal deaths and severe health complications for infants.

April is STI Awareness Month, but Parkland will offer testing, treatment and STI education year-round throughout its health system. These services are included at their 16 Community Oriented Primary Care health centers and through their Access to Care and Coverage Program, which brings Parkland to many neighborhoods.

Parkland’s initiatives focus on expanding access to STI testing and treatment services, particularly targeting pregnant women and high-risk populations. Through educational campaigns and partnerships with community partners, Parkland aims to increase awareness about syphilis and other STIs as well as encourage early detection through regular screenings.

“These initiatives are crucial in our efforts to combat the spread of syphilis and protect the health of mothers and their babies here in our community,” said Adhikari, who is also an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “By promoting STI awareness and education and providing accessible health care services, we can prevent unnecessary suffering and save lives.”

The importance of STI screenings is key in treating this public health crisis, as early detection allows for timely intervention, treatment and preventing transmission. Parkland’s comprehensive approach underscores the vital role health care institutions play in empowering community members to take control of their sexual wellness.

Additionally, having an STI can increase your chances of acquiring HIV, according to Dr. Helen King, infectious diseases service chief at Parkland Health and associate professor, Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Anyone who is sexually active should know their options to prevent STIs and HIV, including testing, condoms and PrEP, the medication that prevents HIV,” King said.

For more on the CDC Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance report, visit www.cdc.gov/std, and for more information about Parkland services, visit www.parklandhealth.org.

The post Parkland takes action to combat maternal syphilis crisis in Dallas appeared first on Dallas Examiner.