Monroe County sees alarming increase in gonorrhea, HIV cases


Sexual health advocates and medical experts call for increased sexual health education after a recent report from Trillium Health and ACT Rochester shows an alarming increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Monroe County over the past three years, primarily affecting black men and members of the LGBTQ community.

The report details that Monroe County saw a 77% increase in gonorrhea cases in 2020, up from 40% statewide, and as many new HIV diagnoses in the first nine months of 2020 as in the first nine months of 2020. each of the past four years. According to the report, at least 10 of the new HIV infections were in people with a history of injecting drug use.

The MOCHA Center Rochester moved in the fall from Water Street to 470 W. Main Street.  A mural is painted on the Litchfield Street side on April 21, 2021. MOCHA, in partnership with Trillium Health, is a community health center focused on improving the health and well-being of LGBTQ people of color.

Experts from Trillium Health and ACT Rochester agree that it’s not just one thing that has led to the increase in STIs in Monroe County.

Dr Bill M. Valenti, Senior Vice President for Strategic Advancement, Chief Innovation Officer, Co-Founder and Staff Physician at Trillium Health, co-authored the report with ACT Rochester, and explained that the surge STIs do not happen by accident; as trends indicate since 2017.

“Factors such as declining funding, both at the federal level, at the level of local and state health departments, and late diagnosis have contributed to these trends,” said Valenti, who has spent decades working for end the HIV epidemic.

Racism and stigma also play a role, Valenti says.

Dr William Valenti, co-founder of Trillium Health.

“When you look at the intersection of darkness, weirdness and poverty, safety takes a back seat as some people have to engage in survival sex work,” said Javon Cooper, of Trillium Health MOCHA Center, which works to help and educate LGTBQ people of color on sexual health and wellness.

“The main factor contributing to the increase is access,” Cooper said.

Regarding access, Cooper said the lack of appropriate, inclusive, consent-based sexual health education in schools across the city, as well as the lack of low-cost sexual health clinics in the cities. city ​​centers and urban areas contribute to this.

“These STIs are preventable, and the main ones are treatable, so we want to identify them as quickly as possible, and for that we need to understand the new and changing modes of transmission,” said Valenti.

The way people connect is changing, from online dating to hookup apps, and changes in relationships with the normalization of open relationships and sexually fluid relationships that involve more partners. These need to be taken into account when it comes to sexual health, Valenti said.

Destigmatize and prevent

Ann Johnson, of ACT Rochester, a local organization that uses data to solve problems, said that although preventable and treatable, many cases of STIs go undetected due to stigma.

“We’re seeing a receptivity within the community that whether they agree or not there is a curiosity to find out more,” Johnson said.

She explained that without proper sex education it is difficult for young people to cope with sexuality and choices, so there needs to be more support and treatment available for all ages.

The report offers recommendations and strategies that could not only help reduce the rate of HIV and other STI infections, but also promote evidence-based and medically accurate sexual health education in schools.

Promoting sexual health and treatment on social media and advertising clinical services on hookup apps are also strategies that can help reach those at risk.

“During the pandemic, people weren’t going out but still having sex. So we had to meet people where they are, ”said Valenti.

Trillium MOCHA Center, located on 470 W Main St., offers a host of services that primarily help black and Latino LGBTQ people in Rochester, including free STI testing, PrEP, and even the COVID-19 test.

You can access the full report here.

Natalia Rodríguez Medina is a bilingual journalist covering the Puerto Rican and Latino population for the Democrat and Chronicle in partnership with Report for America. Follow her on Twitter at @nataliarodmed or email her at [email protected] You can support his work with a tax deductible donation to Report for America.

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