Long Beach city officials announce strategy to curb rise in HIV, STD cases

A recent study reveals that cases of sexually-transmitted diseases in LB are among the highest in the state.


Daniel Green | Signal Tribune

Dr. Anissa Davis, the City of Long Beach’s health officer, spoke to members of the press Monday, May 6, at St. Mary Medical Center about the findings of the two-year study that helped city officials develop the new HIV/STD strategy. The study found a large increase in HIV and STD rates in Long Beach– among the highest in the state.

In response to a high number of cases of HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), City of Long Beach officials announced a new HIV/STD Strategy in an effort to curb the rising numbers.

The new plan was announced on Monday, May 6, at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach at a press conference hosted by Mayor Robert Garcia and City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis. The City’s new strategy comes from a two-year study conducted by the Long Beach Comprehensive HIV Planning Group, made up of Long Beach residents and other local organizations.

“The Planning Group has focused on developing a strategy in partnership with our health department and others to implement a new plan across the city,” Garcia said. “We at the City [have] been aware of the work of the group and have been anticipating this report that really deals with what we do between 2019 and 2020 to get this plan accomplished.”

In his speech, Garcia acknowledged that Long Beach has seen a high number of confirmed cases of HIV and a significant rise in sexually-transmitted diseases.

During the study, the City found that the number of new HIV diagnoses has declined by 33 percent, with 151 individuals diagnosed in 2013 compared to 101 individuals in 2017. However, this rate of infection is still higher than the rest of the state.

One of the findings of the study is the sharp increase in STDs. Since 2013, Long Beach has seen the Chlamydia rate increase by 88 percent. Syphilis has increased by 143 percent and Gonorrhea by 267 percent.

“[On] the issue of STDs and HIV, Long Beach continuously remains higher than Los Angeles County and the state of California,” Garcia said. “As it relates to meeting goals and ensuring health and safety, we know that that is unacceptable, and we can do something about that.”

The new HIV/STD strategy developed by the Planning Group will rely on five goals the City hopes to meet to combat the current spread of these diseases between 2019 through 2022. The main purpose of the goals is to diagnose patients who are currently infected and to educate the community.

The plan will also focus on improving physicians’ ability to respond to different diseases with better training and access to proper medication.

“The five goals are intertwined and interdependent,” Davis said. “Reducing the number of new HIV and STD infections in the city will require us working to progress in meeting all of the goals.”

One of the challenges that the plan is designed to address is how different groups are affected by the disease. The study found the highest rates of infection are in low-income communities, which include the demographics of African-Americans, Latinos and men who have sex with men.

The study cited accessibility, the stigma around the diseases and lower quality of medical care as some of the reasons for the higher levels of STDs and HIV. Davis spoke to the Signal Tribune after the event about the challenges of reaching out to residents that have been ignored in the past.

“Funding is always an issue,” Davis said. “That makes it hard to get out into communities, and then I think […] pairing the right message with the right community; getting the right people in a room.”

Overall, Davis said she has been encouraged by the amount of attention that the new strategy has received from the community, but describes the plan as a “work in progress.”

“I think it is successful in that we’re moving forward,” Davis said. “Will we reach these goals by these years? Maybe not, but I think every step we make is a success in that way. Even if you don’t get to the ultimate goal.”