Florida health department takes on STDs

The Florida Department of Health held a press conference at the Capitol Tuesday because of high rates of the exposure to sexually transmitted diseases among the youth in the state.

In an effort to boost sexually transmitted disease awareness, the Florida Department of Health has named April STD Awareness Month.

The FDOH created STD Awareness Month as a way to encourage Floridians to learn the different diseases and their symptoms.

“In 2004, Florida had a total of 64,083 STD cases; and in 2005, Florida had 66,810 STD cases, ” said Anthony Ray, a public information officer for the FDOH and a graduate of Florida A&M University.

Deputy Secretary of Health Bonnie Sorenson said, “Florida is committed to the health and well-being of its citizens.”

She also said the Florida STD Program has created a partnership with its sister program in Oregon by creating the STD Awareness Ribbon, which is green.

Sorenson said more than half of the population of America will be exposed to an STD at some point in their lifetime, and more than $8 billion is spent each year to diagnose STDs, excluding HIV/AIDS.

Karla Schmitt, bureau chief of STDs for the FDOH, said, “In 2005, our STD staff conducted over 61,000 disease investigations.”

Schmitt added that the staff ensured that more than 80 percent of Florida’s STD cases are treated within 14 days of receiving a positive test.

To further educate citizens, the FDOH also suggests the use of the ABCs of STDs.

They include avoiding risks, becoming informed, and caring enough.

Ray said that the goal of FDOH is to provide educational materials, confidential counseling and testing for all people in Florida.

Sorenson said that in partnership with the Oregon STD Program, staff members the Florida STD Program plan to focus on those who are more susceptible to contracting STDs: the 15-24 age group, pregnant woman and newborns. One plan to increase the level of awareness is through the use of the ribbon.

“‘For a Healthy Tomorrow, Protect Yourself Today,’ is the theme adopted for April 2006,” Sorenson said. “This theme reflects the ongoing commitment of Department of Health. It reflects the values of prevention and the value of awareness in everyone’s future.”

Contact Cherise Wilkerson at CWilkers8@aol.com