Health funding key to STD control

Slashes to health funding have helped STD rates climb to new highs.

Daily Editorial Board

As many University of Minnesota students know, sexually transmitted diseases can often be a touchy, if not embarrassing subject. With STD rates hitting record highs throughout Minnesota in 2011, it is a subject public health advocates are beginning to tackle in new and innovative ways.

The Fremont Clinic of north Minneapolis with the University of Minnesota’s Program in Health Disparities Research and other community-based health programs have begun spreading the word to local businesses in an effort to reach isolated and often distressed communities. Minority communities and young adults continue to have the highest STD rates.

While nonprofit and community organizations can help slow infection rates, budget cuts at both the federal and state level for health and human services loom as a bigger concern. After a protracted government shutdown nearly a year ago, Gov. Mark Dayton and the GOP-led Legislature agreed to a budget that cut about $1 billion in funding to the state’s Departments of Health and Human Services. There were reductions in outpatient and provider reimbursements of 3 percent and reduced payments to state health plans of 10-13 percent.

STDs remain entirely preventable and treatable. With record infection rates over the past several years, STD screenings and treatments must be at the forefront of state and federal health departments. While nonprofits and community advocacy can make a difference, only a broad-based response from public health officials can stem the tide of rising STD rates.