Involving the faith community in syphilis elimination : community-based effort to eliminate syphilis in the United States
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Involving the faith community in syphilis elimination : community-based effort to eliminate syphilis in the United States

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      Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that is concen-trated in a small number of counties in the United States – most of them urban or in the South. In 2003, 18 counties and one city accounted for half of reported syphilis cases in this country. Your community is one of these, and it is important to know that members of your congregation may be at risk.

      Syphilis can affect anyone. Race or ethnicity is not a risk factor, but some communities are hit harder by the disease than others. Syphilis disproportionately affects African-American and Latino communities. It has been cited as one of the most glaring examples of existing gaps in minority health status. With increased awareness, appropriate diagnostic treatment, and changes in risk behaviors, this health disparity can be largely removed.

      The faith community has had to take on many issues to help raise awareness and educate congregations about serious issues that disproportionately affect different populations.

      Because of the tremendous respect and credibility the faith community generates, it has the ability to mobilize the masses and disseminate appropriate information. As the community’s center for hope, religious life, and information, faith organizations can bring public health issues to light and move members to seek help if it is needed. There are many health issues facing congregants today: diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and sexually transmitted diseases. Each of these is a battle to be waged, and some can be won. Syphilis elimination is one battle that we can win today.

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