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As STDs Increase, Work of Disease Intervention Specialists Increasingly Important (10/1/19)

As STDs Increase, Work of Disease Intervention Specialists Increasingly Important (10/1/19)

Author: Polly Carver-Kimm/Tuesday, October 1, 2019/Categories: Infectious Disease Prevention, Behavioral Health

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The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) and the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) recognize October 4, 2019, as annual Disease Interventionist Specialist (DIS) Recognition Day. DIS work across many program areas in public health; however, their primary focus is in the field of sexual health and specifically sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. DIS connect individuals diagnosed with these infections to important resources, confidentially notify partners, and direct all to appropriate medical treatment.

There are seven DIS who work at IDPH; additionally, Polk, Linn, Scott and Black Hawk counties have staff performing DIS work within their respective counties. In 2018, DIS in Iowa followed up on nearly 20,000 diagnoses, and contacted an additional 4,000 partners.

The number of individuals diagnosed with gonorrhea more than doubled in the state since 2015, reaching 4,839 known diagnoses in 2018. After a few years of leveling off, preliminary 2019 data indicate syphilis may be increasing in the state again. Although the majority of people affected by syphilis continues to be men, there are recent increases among women. 

If left untreated, STDs can lead to serious and irreversible complications. However, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent these complications. Because STDs may not cause obvious symptoms, regular testing is important. Open and honest conversations with medical providers and sexual partners about sexual and reproductive health are essential in reducing STDs.

For more information about DIS, visit http://www.ncsddc.org/our-work/disease-intervention-specialists-dis/. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats/default.htm to review CDC’s national STD data. To view Iowa’s DIS map or STD data, visit https://idph.iowa.gov/hivstdhep/std/resources.

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