Our Turn: Restore funding for HIV/STD prevention program in New Hampshire

Published: 6/5/2019 12:10:21 AM

Over the past decade, New Hampshire has seen an alarming spike in sexually transmitted diseases, coinciding with the complete elimination of the state-supported HIV/STD prevention program in the 2012-13 state budget and the rise of the substance misuse crisis.

This year, state budget writers have an opportunity to restore this critical funding, which would allow providers to increase treatment services necessary to address this public health crisis. Funding this program will help our state reduce the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and help create better public health outcomes for people of all ages in New Hampshire.

Since the elimination of the HIV/STD prevention program, STD rates have increased across the state. Gonorrhea and syphilis are both in outbreak status – cases of gonorrhea alone increased 324 percent between 2013-17. There has also been a dramatic increase in cases of chlamydia over the last five years.

Along with an increase in STDs, New Hampshire is experiencing an overwhelming substance misuse crisis. In 2017, 467 Granite Staters died from overdose, more than double the 192 overdose deaths in 2013. Researchers have found a concerning intersection between opioid and meth use and syphilis among women and heterosexual men, and they suggest that substance misuse may be a driving force behind some of the increase in syphilis rates.

Two major public health issues are colliding, threatening the lives and well-being of New Hampshire residents. We are working hard to end the opioid epidemic and save lives by funding effective prevention, treatment and recovery, but funding STD prevention services is equally important.

In addition to increased STD prevention funding, it’s also important to fund and provide sex education and substance use prevention, treatment and recovery programs for people of all ages to address these public health challenges.

While many STDs have no symptoms and if left untreated can lead to serious health problems, safer sex and regular testing can reduce the risks and help people get treatment. All STDs, even HIV, are treatable, and many are curable. However, you can’t get treatment if you don’t know your status, and the only way to know your status is to get tested. This is why STD prevention is so crucial. It’s important to note that it’s not just young people who experience STDs: rates have increased 23 percent in patients over 60 years old in the last few years.

Last year, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s five New Hampshire health centers performed over 26,000 STD tests. To set up an appointment for an STD testing and/or treatment contact Planned Parenthood of Northern New England at 1-800-230-7526.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and New Futures urge the state Senate and Gov. Chris Sununu to follow the House’s recommendation and restore funding for the state HIV/STD prevention program in the state budget. Reducing STD rates and increasing New Hampshire’s positive public health outcomes is a nonpartisan responsibility of lawmakers.

(Kayla Montgomery is director of advocacy and organizing for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Kate Frey is vice president of advocacy for New Futures.)


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