Young black women in poor neighborhoods on the East Side are the most likely demographic in the county to be infected with gonorrhea or chlamydia, according to the Cleveland Department of Public Health, which annually releases reports tracking sexually transmitted diseases in Cleveland neighborhoods and Cuyahoga County.
The 2012 figures for Cuyahoga County released this month (visit clevescene.com for a copy of the full report) show there were 10,256 new reported cases of chlamydia, a rate of 803 cases per 100,000 people (compared to 805 in 2011). A majority were women (72 percent) between the ages of 15 and 24 (76 percent), and black (64 percent).
For gonorrhea in the county, there were 3,716 new cases, representing 291 infections per 100,000 people (a 6.9-percent jump from the previous year). A majority of those cases were women (57 percent), between the ages of 15 and 24 (69 percent) and black (74 percent).
The numbers underscore what one might assume: a disproportionate rate of infection in those areas dealing with poverty, sub-standard education and other societal barriers.
"We have some fairly sophisticated ways of capturing information in concert with medical providers and it's getting better every year," said David Bruckman, the chief systems analyst and biostatistician for the Cleveland Department of Public Health. STD case information is automatically sent electronically to public health departments from the major Cleveland hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic, Case Medical Center, University Hospitals and MetroHealth, as well as small private labs and clinics. "There's probably 100-percent capture from those medical systems."
Doctors, school superintendents, researchers, parents and residents can use that information for "prevention and intervention" in high-risk areas, said Bruckman.
The reporting system allows the health department to know the city's central neighborhood, with a median household income of $9,418, has the highest rate of chlamydia and second-highest rate of gonorrhea infections in the city (2,901 and 1,154 per 100,000 people respectively). Not far behind are other eastside neighborhoods like Buckeye-Woodhill, Kinsman, Glenville, St. Clair-Superior, Fairfax, Collinwood-Nottingham, Union-Miles, Mount Pleasant and Hough.
Cleveland, however, has the third highest STD rate for overall county municipalities, behind East Cleveland and Warrensville Heights.
"These high numbers of cases have been here a long time," said Bruckner about the concentrations on the East Side. "People tend to make contact with sexual partners who live near them. Locality is important, especially when not everyone has cars."
Age, more than location, is the most consistent demographic for determining the likelihood of infection, said Bruckman, pointing out more than 75 percent of the chlamydia cases occurred with people between the ages of 15 and 24, which he said is similar to each of the report he's worked on since starting in 2002.
"What we see with Chlamydia and Gonorrhea is often they asymptomatic in may people," he said, "but they don't realize they have it and don't realize they pass it readily. There is quite a bit of reinfection that occurs. It's as much an information issue as it is a question of routine healthcare access."
The Cleveland Department of Health has two clinics where people can be cheaply screened for sexually transmitted diseases: the J. Glen Smith Health Center (11100 St. Clair Ave., room 219. Call 216-664-7095 for info) to the east and the T.F. McCafferty Health Center (4242 Lorain Ave., room 233. 216.664.6603) to the west.