UPDATE: 4:30 p.m.: In a follow-up conversation this afternoon, public health nurse Hava Phillips said the county Public Health office had two confirmed cases of HIV diagnosed in April, which was alarming since there can be entire years with only two HIV diagnoses in the county.
Public Health staff is investigating “more than two” other cases that may also be connected, Phillips said.
While Humboldt County’s high rate of intravenous drug use is a constant concern when it comes to transmission of HIV, Phillips reiterated that there is no evidence that any of the current cases involve IV drug users.
As for the other three STDs mentioned in today’s press release — chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — Phillips said the latter one causes the most concern.
“Syphilis can disrupt your skin in a way that makes you more vulnerable to HIV,” Phillips said. And syphilis diagnoses have more than doubled from last year.
Bottom line: If you’re using Grindr or some other hookup app — or, for that matter, if you’re having sex with anyone that you haven’t been intimate with for years — be careful out there, folks.
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Below is a press release from the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services. Note: The Outpost has asked for hard numbers on the cases discussed below. We’ll update when and if we get a response from the county.
County health officials are reporting a recent spike in HIV cases after an unusual number of infections were confirmed in April. Several of the cases are believed to be related.
Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis locally.
Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Donald Baird said Humboldt County typically sees one positive syphilis case a year. That has increased [to] up to five a week.
“There is an unprecedented number of STDs in Humboldt County, reflecting a national trend,” he said. “All of these diseases are treatable, but they have to be diagnosed first and can be most contagious in the early stages.”
It’s important for people to be honest with their medical providers about their sexual history and get tested regularly. People who have multiple partners, men who have sex with men and intravenous drug users who share needles are at greater risk.
Dr. Baird said some of those at highest risk are people who have anonymous partners, a practice made easier by the prevalence of smart phone hookup apps.
To find out if you are at risk or to make an appointment to get tested for STDs, call your health care provider or the Public Health Clinic at 707-268-2108.