Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis City, County Join Together to Tackle STD Problem

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis City, County Join Together to Tackle STD Problem

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS - The city has taken the unusual step of asking for the county's help in tackling its long-standing problem with sexually transmitted diseases.

A city contract that started July 1 will pay the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, Planned Parenthood, St. Louis Effort for AIDS and other nonprofit organizations to test and treat STDs in low-income and uninsured city residents.

"We were very fortunate to be the recipient of part of this grant ... to help cover testing and treatment that we do for those clients who have no other means of paying for it," said Mary Kogut, CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, which provides 60,000 STD tests yearly.

St. Louis has ranked highest in the country for rates of the sexually transmitted diseases chlamydia and gonorrhea for at least two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without its own public health clinics, the city has historically contracted out for testing and treatment.

The city's chlamydia rate in 2016 (1,297 per 100,000 residents) was unchanged from 2013, and the gonorrhea rate over the same period increased from 551 per 100,000 residents to 750 per 100,000.

City health officials declined to give details on the new contract, which is awaiting formal approval.

After the 2013 closure of safety net provider ConnectCare, Dr. Sonny Saggar was awarded a no-bid contract to provide free STD testing and treatment for city residents without insurance or who otherwise can't pay at his Downtown Urgent Care and North City Urgent Care clinics.

The $200,000 contract was renewed annually through June, as questions arose about the lack of improvement in STD rates. Saggar's clinics had diagnosed less than 1 percent of the city's chlamydia and gonorrhea cases since 2014.

Dr. Will Ross, chairman of the Joint Boards of Health and Hospitals, which advises the city health department, told director Melba Moore in July 2017 that he was concerned that Saggar's clinics were not routinely testing for STDs and the contract should be reopened for bids, according to emails obtained by the Post-Dispatch.

Saggar, who was denied a contract renewal, said his clinics could not handle the workload of patients with sexually transmitted diseases. Without city funding, the north city clinic is likely to close this year, he said. …

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