Mid-South zip codes uncovered as STD hot spots - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

1 in 90 people in Shelby Co. has an STD

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Mia Cotton with Friends For Life said, "When we walk through this door every day, we know that our clients have overwhelming issues and I can tell you that HIV is not the largest of them." Mia Cotton with Friends For Life said, "When we walk through this door every day, we know that our clients have overwhelming issues and I can tell you that HIV is not the largest of them."
"I had already talked to my physician and the health department was coming after that," said 23-year-old Xavier Weddington, who is living with HIV "I had already talked to my physician and the health department was coming after that," said 23-year-old Xavier Weddington, who is living with HIV
"There are a lot of things we can do to try to locate a person," said Norman Foster at the Shelby County Health Department whose job is to find people. "There are a lot of things we can do to try to locate a person," said Norman Foster at the Shelby County Health Department whose job is to find people.
SHELBY COUNTY, TN -

(WMC) - One in every 90 people in Shelby County has a sexually transmitted disease. The number is actually down from previous years.

The WMC Action News 5 Investigators have uncovered STD hot spots in the Mid-South, zip codes where health professionals say more needs to be done to stop the spread of STDs.

"There are a lot of things we can do to try to locate a person," said Norman Foster at the Shelby County Health Department whose job is to find people. "Sometimes it's as simple as getting a name, address, and phone number."

Foster is part of SCHD's disease intervention specialist team. He looks for people who have tested positive or had sexual contact with someone else who has tested positive for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and/or HIV/AIDS.

"Stop the spreading," said Foster. "Sometimes we get just the nickname of an individual ... We will go to an individual's job and engage them there where they work and it's a very sensitive process ... People are hurt. Some people feel betrayed. People are really scared about what could happen."

They meet people.

"I had already talked to my physician and the health department was coming after that," said 23-year-old Xavier Weddington, who is living with HIV. "At the beginning stages you really don't want to be bothered."

He was diagnosed December 17, 2009.

"You never think something like this could happen to you," he said. "I literally hit the floor and I just started crying. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to do."

Weddington was in a relationship for three years. He says he practiced monogamy but not safely.

"The problem is that too many people are walking around and they're saying, 'Okay, I'm negative.' But they haven't been tested," he said.

In the Shelby County Health Department's Annual Surveillance Summary from 2012, the most recent numbers available, epidemiologists say 83 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS in Shelby County are black: 69 percent are men.

The highest percentage of cases are contracted through male-to-male sex. The data is also broken down by all 33 zip codes in Shelby County. Rates are based on population.

The highest HIV/AIDS rate per 100,000 people is in the 38105 zip code. 38127 has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia combined. Zip codes 38109, 38106, and 38114 follows.

"Some of those zip codes that you mentioned are at low socioeconomic statuses, so people may not be able to afford medical care or know that there are places that they can access care that is free or based around their income. They may not have that knowledge," said Friends For Life HIV/AIDS Prevention Services Coordinator Mia Cotton.

Friends For Life is a non-profit that services clients infected with HIV/AIDS. It offers free syphilis testing and attempts to stop the spreading.

"When we walk through this door every day, we know that our clients have overwhelming issues, and I can tell you that HIV is not the largest of them," said Cotton.

When WMC Action News 5 hit the street in some of those zip codes in search of opinion, the people we met all told us avoiding becoming a statistic is simple.

"I think it's mostly on yourself. You have to be willing to use protection basically," said resident Keunka Dyson.

"All of these infections—syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV—are 100 percent preventable," said Foster.

Shelby County's STD data is two years behind what it should be. The Health Department says a staffing issue delayed timely reports so the number of infections could be less or greater.

See an interactive map of how your zip code stacks up here: http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/link/691927/heat-map. 

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