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Gonorrhea alert!: Eye-catching billboard warns of drug-resistant STD strain



An eye-catching billboard spreading awareness about sexually transmitted diseases has grasped the attention of commuters and passersby ever since it went up on a Baltimore street.

The hard-to-miss sign issues a “‘Gonorrhea Alert!” in large letters and features a picture of the Titanic crashing into the tip of an iceberg. It’s one of several appearing across 16 states as part of a nationwide campaign by the advocacy group AIDS Healthcare Foundation and aims to raise awareness about a new strain of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea that was detected in the U.S. earlier this year.

“It’s a call to action for the individual to think about gonorrhea, to have conversations about gonorrhea with their partners,” said Mike McVicker-Weaver, an AHF regional director for Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Gonorrhea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection. It may present without symptoms, and if left untreated, can result in pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and other health problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gonorrhea is the second most common STI in the U.S., behind chlamydia. Gonorrhea has progressively developed resistance to the antibiotic drugs currently prescribed to treat it, the agency said. This has contributed to the recent rise in reported gonorrhea cases. In 2021, there were 710,151 reported gonorrhea cases in the U.S. compared to 677,769 in 2020 and 616,392 in 2019, according to the CDC.

Earlier this year, health officials in Massachusetts announced it had detected a “concerning” new strain of gonorrhea that resisted response to five commonly-used classes of antibiotics.


“The discovery of this strain of gonorrhea is a serious public health concern which DPH, the CDC, and other health departments have been vigilant about detecting in the US,” Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke said in a statement. “We urge all sexually active people to be regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections and to consider reducing the number of their sexual partners and increasing their use of condoms when having sex. Clinicians are advised to review the clinical alert and assist with our expanded surveillance efforts.”

AHF said its Wellness Centers currently provide free testing and prevention for gonorrhea and other STDs in multiple locations across the country.

McVicker-Weaver said larger-scale efforts are needed to draw attention to the underlying risk.

“We know now that gonorrhea is resistant to the main lines of treatment for it. It’s rare, still, to run into those strains of gonorrhea, but it’s there. So, without a robust public health response, it’s going to become a real crisis,” he said.

Source: NBC New York


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