STD cases spike in Lane County: 'There's no moral code'

STD cases spike in Lane County: 'There's no moral code'

EUGENE, Ore. - As Diane Reedy stood outside a government office in hopes of getting help kicking her heroin habit, she weighed in on the sexually transmitted disease crisis facing Lane County.

“You know, you can be as promiscuous as want, just think about other people and use common sense,” Reedy told KVAL News. “But people don’t do that. There’s no moral code anymore.”

Reedy has been battling heroin addiction for years and said she is trying to get on one of Lane County’s methadone programs to get clean.

Whatever you call it — lack of morals or information, or just ignorance— risky human behaviors like sharing needles and having unprotected sex have caused a spike in STDs in Lane County, according to the senior public health officer.

“Gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis are all increasing significantly in our county,” said Dr. Patrick Luedtke. “Gonorrhea levels are really quite high.”

Luedtke said the number of new cases of gonorrhea compared to the previous year is about double.

He said chlamydia cases are up about 40 percent from the previous year.

“We’ve seen a sustained increase over the last 10 months, and we don’t see a sign of it decreasing,” said Luedtke.

In response to the new data, Luedtke held an emergency STD summit at Lane County Public Health early Thursday morning.

“We are quite concerned with the volume of sexually transmitted diseases occurring in our county and across the state,” said Luedtke, “and we felt it was time to give the provider community — the  doctor community — knowledge  of that and to give them the tools to address it.”

Luedtke said the summit had four main goals: to share the new STD data, share changes in treatments, raise awareness about antibiotic resistant strains of gonorrhea and learn from the health care community in the area. 

Representatives of one of the groups in attendance at the emergency STD summit, the HIV Alliance in Eugene, said a spike in STD cases could foreshadow an increase in HIV numbers as well.

“Our concern at HIV Alliance always is that when you see STDs rising like that, you can see HIV rates increasing,” said HIV Alliance program director Renee Yandel at the Eugene office on Thursday. “And we haven’t seen that necessarily - we only have one month of data — we haven’t seen a trend of that, and we’re hoping that we can get ahead of that.”

Lane County Public Health reported 18 cases of HIV in the month of April 2013, compared to only one case that month last year.

“That can be because they’re newly diagnosed or new to the state, and it’s the first time it’s been reported,” Yandel said.

New cases or not, Yandel said the risk to everyone has increased.

“When you have more people living with HIV, there’s more risk out there for everyone — not just the high risk populations — because we still see folks outside of those populations who have HIV,” she said.