Magazine article The Nation's Health

North Carolina Door-to-Door Health Campaign Fighting Syphilis, HIV

Magazine article The Nation's Health

North Carolina Door-to-Door Health Campaign Fighting Syphilis, HIV

Article excerpt

IN MAY, health officials in Forsyth County, N.C., were tracking a troubling trend. The number of syphilis cases reported in the county were rising rapidly. Only four months into the year, the county--home to Winston-Salem --already had more than twice as many reported cases of syphilis than during all of 2008.

To increase awareness of the sexually transmitted disease among county residents and encourage them to get tested, officials at the Forsyth County Department of Public Health took to the streets, mounting a massive door-to-door outreach. About 120 state and local health workers participated in the Aug. 28-29 outreach, focusing special attention on high-risk neighborhoods where clusters of cases had been reported. Working in teams made up of phlebotomists, interviewers and counselors, the trios knocked on doors, handing out bags filled with educational information, condoms, candy, coloring books and crayons, and encouraging residents to take advantage of free, in-home blood tests for syphilis and HIV. Residents who did so received $10 gift cards to an area retailer.

Purchased by the state, the gift cards helped open doors, said campaign coordinator Patrice Toney, prevention supervisor for sexually transmitted diseases at the Forsyth County Department of Public Health.

"Incentives encourage people to get tested," Toney said.

In all, 603 residents were tested for syphilis and HIV during the two-day event, which brought in health workers from around the state and represented the largest screening effort ever mounted by the county health department. The screenings uncovered two new cases of syphilis and at least two new cases of HIV, Toney said. …

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