County Still No. 2 in Md. For STDs, Official Says

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Prince George's County continues to have the second-highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in Maryland and the second-highest number of reported AIDS and HIV cases, according to the county's top health official. Prince George's trails only Baltimore in both categories.

The county had 5,240 reported AIDS and HIV cases in 2007, the most recent data available, County Health Officer Donald Shell told the County Council yesterday.

Shell said proximity to the District has continued to affect the county. Last week, District health officials reported that 3 percent of city residents have HIV or AIDS. "There is no border line," Shell said. "Our proximity puts us at greater risk."

He said another major problem in Prince George's is lack of access to health care. About 151,000 residents do not have health coverage, and about 102,000 are on Medicaid, Shell said.

Shell also reported a "resurgence" of syphilis in the county. In 1998, there were 6.6 cases per 100,000 residents, compared with 11.2 cases per 100,000 in 2007. Shell reported infection rates for several STDs, but his department did not provide data to support his conclusion that the county has the state's second-highest overall rate.

He attributed the alarming rates of HIV and syphilis in part to disregard of health experts' advice about practicing safe sex, mainly among heterosexuals. Shell said he has gone to local college campuses to speak and was somewhat surprised by the response.

"They don't care about condom usage or about their partners," he said. "There is a blatant disregard that anything is going to happen to them."

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