Bluefield Daily Telegraph
While the news probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, health officials in Mercer County are attributing an increase in the number of sexually transmitted diseases to the region’s rampant prostitution problem.
In June, the Mercer County Health Department saw 27 cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The usual number of STD cases, at most, is 10 to 15 a month, according to public health nurse Judy Bolton, RN.
Engaging in prostitution counts, along with drug abuse, as a high-risk behavior. However, it is difficult to track prostitutes who are spreading STDs, according to Bolton. Men — or those commonly referred to as Johns — who have had contact with prostitutes often cannot provide much information about them to health care authorities.
“It’s been especially worse since January this year,” Bolton said. “We are having a huge number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases, which are sexually transmitted diseases. And there is treatment for those people who come in and get treatment. If they don’t, they can get complications. They need to realize that HIV and hepatitis B is transmitted the same way as chlamydia and gonorrhea.”
When a man admits to having sex with a prostitute, health officials will try to locate the prostitute, and bring them in to be tested and treated. However, getting the names of prostitutes, and tracking them down, can be difficult, according to Bolton.
Adding to the health woes is the fact that Mercer County still has the highest rate in the nation, by population, for Hepatitis B rates. The health department also reports that Mercer County is still ranked second or third in the nation, by population, for Hepatitis C.
These alarming statistics can’t be ignored. They should instead be seen as a call to action for law enforcement agencies across the region, who should double their efforts in tracking down and arresting prostitutes, and those men who pay for their services.
The Princeton Police Department has been doing a good job in recent weeks of arresting the prostitutes and Johns. But this effort will have to continue in order to keep the women, and the men who pay for their services, off the streets. And we would like to see a new round of regional prostitution stings as prostitutes remain visible in both the city of Bluefield, and along U.S. Route 52 in Mercer County.
All efforts must be made to help stem the troubling rise in STD rates in the county. And the best way to accomplish this goal is to get the prostitutes — and the Johns who are paying for their services — off of our streets.