AHF Lauds Gov. Brown for Signing California Sex Ed Bill (AB 329)

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AB 329, (Shirley Weber, D, San Diego, District 79), signed into law last night by Governor Brown, requires sexual education in all California public schools. Under current law, it is permissible, but not required.

SACRAMENTO (October 2, 2010)¾AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the operator of the largest non-government HIV testing program in California, today applauded Governor Jerry Brown for signing Assembly Bill 329 (Shirley Weber, D, Sacramento-District 79), which would require sexual education in all California public schools. Under current law, sex ed is permissible, but not required. AHF was an active supporter of AB 329, and lobbied the Legislature and Governor hard for enactment of this important public health measure.

“Providing sexual education, including information about STDs and their prevention, through our public schools ensures that the state is reaching millions of young people at a formative stage in their lives when this information can take hold. This allows them to make wise and informed decisions as they engage in sexual activity when they are older,” said Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Senior Director, Public Health Division for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. ““We sincerely thank Governor Brown for signing AB 329 into law.”

“At a time when STDs are at record levels throughout California, the state’s current commitment to STD prevention and control is tragically inadequate. By the time Californians become adults, there is little capacity by the state or other institutions to educate people about STDS and how to protect themselves and their loved ones from exposure,” said Michael Weinstein, President, AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

“From the larger public health perspective, inattention to this crucial public health matter also perpetuates this growing epidemic of STDS with increasing costs to society. By signing AB 329, Governor Brown is paving the way for educators and public health professional to intervene with young people before another generation is swept into this epidemic.”

STDs remain a large and persistent public health challenge for the citizens of our state.  The large number of cases makes STDs the most commonly reported communicable disease in California.  Exacerbating the problem is the fact that because STDs are often asymptomatic, the burden of the disease is far greater than the number of reported cases.

In addition, the prevalence of STDs are correlative to the incidence of HIV.  We continue to experience 5000 new infections of HIV every year, which is attributable in part to the fact that we have been unable to wrestle down the high rates of all STDs.

According to data from the Department of Public Health, incidence rates of sexually transmitted diseases have increased dramatically in the last five years of complete records.  Chlamydia has risen by 17% from 2009 to 2013.  During the same period, gonorrhea has increased by 63%. Primary and secondary syphilis have smaller raw numbers but have grown at the alarming rate of 76%.

The incidence rates of STDs are excessively high.  According to the 2013 statistics, the gonorrhea rate for 15-19 year olds is 185.2 per 100,000.  Digging deeper into that age range, the rate for African American teenagers is 1040.3 and, even worse for African American females, at 1397.5.

In a 2011 study, the DPH looked at HIV co-infection rates for people with STDs based on 2009 data. High rates of HIV co-infection were observed among male primary and secondary syphilis cases (43 percent) and male gonorrhea cases (14 percent). The DPH also indicated that by comparing HIV prevalence among STD cases, persons living with HIV who have not been previously reported to the Office of AIDS might be identified.

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