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Message from the Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County
Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH

November 9, 2016

Sexually Transmitted Diseases in LA County

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the most commonly reported communicable diseases and rates are rising in the United States, California and Los Angeles County (LAC). In LAC, there were nearly 75,000 STD cases reported to the Department of Public Health (DPH) in 2015. This reflects rising rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and congenital syphilis observed over the past few years. It is believed that these rates are the result of several factors, including:
  • Increased use of long acting contraception (hormonal birth control) versus condoms to prevent pregnancy. Unlike condoms, these methods do not protect against STDs;
  • Condom fatigue among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, leading to more episodes of unprotected sex; and
  • New technology that has changed the way people find sexual partners. Social media, internet sites, and dating/hook-up apps make it easier to have casual sexual encounters which are at increased risk for STDs.

What are STDs?

STDs are diseases spread from person to person through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Women can also transmit STDs to their babies during pregnancy and delivery, or while breastfeeding in the case of HIV. More than 20 different STDs exist, although the most common include:

If left untreated, many of these STDs can cause serious health concerns ranging from infertility to increased risk for certain types of cancers. HIV and syphilis can be fatal without treatment. Therefore, it is important that you take steps to prevent STDs to protect your health, the health of your sexual partners, and your children.

Protect Yourself and Others
To reduce your risk of getting an STD:

  • Get vaccinated for Hepatitis B and HPV, if eligible, and encourage others to do the same. The Hepatitis B vaccine is now required for all children entering daycare or elementary school, and is recommended for certain populations of unvaccinated adults. The HPV vaccine is recommended for children ages 11 and 12. Adults may receive the HPV vaccine through ages 26 for women and 21 for men. The HPV vaccine is also recommended for men who have sex with men as well as men with compromised immune systems through age 26 if not vaccinated when they were younger.
  • Before having sex, talk to your partners about their STD testing history and whether they may have been exposed to an STD since their last test results. You cannot tell if someone has an STD just by looking at them.
  • Use condoms and other barrier methods if you are unaware of a partner’s STD status. This may include new partners or those who have sex with other people. As mentioned, while birth control prevents pregnancy, it does not protect you from STDs. If you live in Los Angeles County, check out to have male condoms mailed to you free of charge or to locate places where you can pick up free male or female condoms.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider about whether HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is right for you. PrEP is a pill that you can take once a day, every day, to help reduce your chances of getting HIV. However, it does not protect you against other STDs. To learn more about PrEP, visit
  • Get tested if you think you may have been exposed to an STD, even if you don’t feel sick, or show any signs or symptoms. It is possible to have an STD and not know it. STDs are most often asymptomatic.
  • Get recommended cervical cancer screenings if you are a woman or transgender man. This can help detect any cervical tissue anomalies early, including cervical cancer, and allow for prompt intervention. Remember, cervical cancer can be a result of HPV infection. General guidelines recommend a pap test for individuals ages 21 through 65 every three years. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out what’s right for you.

If diagnosed with an STD:

  • Take the prescribed medication as instructed. Antibiotics are available to cure bacterial STDs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. To ensure that the antibiotics cure your infection, it is very important to finish all of the medicine as prescribed. This also reduces the chance of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which makes treating STDs more difficult. At this time, a cure does not exist for herpes, HIV, or HPV, but medicine can help lessen the frequency and severity of related symptoms for herpes, and slow down the progression of HIV.
  • Notify your sex partners. Encourage them to get tested for STDs and treated, if infected.
  • If pregnant, seek prenatal care as soon as possible to seek treatment to protect your health and your baby. Treatment can prevent STD transmission to the baby and reduce the risk of pregnancy complications, including stillbirth, birth defects, or severe health consequences in infants and children.

Your sexual health is an important part of your overall well-being. If you live in Los Angeles County and are at least 12 years old, call the STD/HIV Hotline at (800) 758-0880 to find out where you can get tested and treated for free. The hotline can also help you with telling your partner(s) if you’ve been diagnosed with an STD. To learn more about STD prevention, visit our Division of HIV and STD Programs website at

Previous Messages

8/12/16 - Climate change is a source of concern for many, especially as warmer, drier weather is observed throughout the county. This affects us in many ways. While the mild El Niño season helped fill many of California’s reservoirs, water is still a major concern. We continue to experience record-breaking temperatures. In addition, in the past few weeks, a number of fires have caused many square miles of brush and property to burn. Text

7/1/16 - In the last two months, 7 cases of invasive meningococcal disease have been reported within the Los Angeles County Public Health jurisdiction. Additional cases have been reported in surrounding jurisdictions.

6/13/16 - June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. The day is a great reminder to get tested for people who don’t know their HIV status or who may have been exposed to HIV since their last test.

4/12/16 - Alcohol is a huge continuing problem that affects many lives and can tear families apart. Alcohol is also the second leading cause of premature death and disability in Los Angeles County, contributing to more than 1000 deaths every year

2/10/16 - There has been a lot of information on Zika in the news lately. Below are some ways we can address this disease to keep our friends and family safe, and to prevent Zika transmission in our County.

1/14/16 - January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. It’s a great time to learn more about cervical cancer and ways to prevent this disease from affecting family and friends.

12/08/15 - I would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season! I hope many of you are able to spend time with family and friends while enjoying and sharing your cultural traditions. To help you and your loved ones celebrate safely over the next few weeks, here are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind:

11/02/15 - November 16-22, 2015 is Get Smart Week. The goal of Get Smart Week is to raise awareness about antibiotic resistance.

10/09/15 - The 2015-2016 influenza season has started. Make sure you and your family are protected! Get your influenza vaccine now. Influenza, or the flu, is a virus that causes mild to serious illness.

09/08/15 - Prescription drugs play a critical role in treating people when they are sick or feel pain. It is also very important to properly dispose of all unused or expired medications. Unused medication can pose a major health and safety risk if left in the home.

08/10/15 - Last Thursday the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced a case of human plague in California. The patient lives in LA County and was hospitalized for the illness after a family trip to Yosemite State National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. Officials are still investigating where the individual may have contracted the disease.

07/06/15 - I am happy to report that new Ebola cases in West Africa have significantly declined due to the extraordinary efforts by healthcare professionals to care for infected individuals and reduce community transmission. The number of new weekly cases in West Africa has remained below 30 for several weeks and efforts remain strong to bring the epidemic to a closure as soon as possible.

04/22/15 - Progress continues to be made as the world responds to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Although the situation has improved greatly and the weekly number of new cases has fallen well below 100, we must remain vigilant until the number of new cases in affected countries reaches zero. Here in Los Angeles County, we continue to closely monitor individuals who travel here from affected countries and who may be at risk of developing Ebola.

03/17/15 - The world response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has decreased the number of new cases occurring there and there is hope that the epidemic can be stopped sometime this year. Here in Los Angeles County, we continue to closely monitor individuals who travel here from affected countries and who may be at risk of developing Ebola. We maintain our surveillance and actively monitor a small number of travelers each day who have

11/24/14 - Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Mali to the list of Ebola-affected countries, which continues to include Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. To date, more than 15,000 individuals have contracted Ebola during this latest epidemic and there have been 5,420 related deaths worldwide. In the United States, a second Ebola-related death occurred last Monday after Dr. Martin Salia was transferred to Nebraska Medical Center from Sierra Leone for medical care following several days of illness. His tragic passing highlights the critical importance of early intervention and care in recovery.

11/17/14 - Ebola outbreaks continue to affect Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa with some new cases reported in Mali. While the rate of new cases in Liberia and Guinea has leveled off, the rate of rise in Sierra Leone continues to accelerate. To date, approximately 14, 000 individuals have contracted Ebola during this latest epidemic and there have been 5,160 related deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will continue to monitor the situation and coordinate relief efforts to control the spread of infection. It is important to note that only two cases of Ebola have been exported from West Africa to other parts of the world, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the strategies that are in place to prevent spread. Those two cases are, of course, the case that was diagnosed in Dallas on September 30, and the more recent case in a physician in New York City who has recovered and been released.

11/10/14 - The Department of Public Health continues to coordinate efforts to ensure we have an effective strategy to respond to a potential case of Ebola in LA County. As part of these ongoing efforts, we met last week with the Hospital Association of Southern California and the California Association for Health Facilities. The meetings were held jointly with LA County Emergency Medical Services and provided hospitals and long-term health care facilities with an update on Ebola, our current activities, and response plans for LA County. Each meeting was an opportunity to strengthen partnerships and facilitate coordination with all health care providers who may play a role in identifying and treating an individual with Ebola.

11/4/14 - The State Health Officer from the California Department of Public Health recently issued a risk-based quarantine order for any individuals coming into California who had contact with a person confirmed with Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will comply with the State’s order.
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10/28/14 - Last week a doctor based in New York, who had treated patients with Ebola in Guinea, tested positive for Ebola. In Los Angeles County there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola, and we remain prepared to respond should a case happen here.
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10/21/14 - As the news continues to evolve around Ebola, I want to reassure all residents in Los Angeles County that, to date, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in Los Angeles County. This past week, we have worked diligently to update and strengthen our plans to address Ebola. We are more prepared today than we were yesterday, and we will be more prepared tomorrow than we are today.
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