July 20, 2019 | 85° F

STI grant allows Rutgers professors to help health sites nationwide

Photo by Rutgers.edu |

Andrea Norberg, the exective director of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center, said Washington D.C. had the highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in the country, as well as the highest prevalence of HIV.

The Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center at the Rutgers School of Nursing was recently given a $12.5 million grant for improving sexually transmitted infection (STI) treatment and prevention in less-equipped areas, at least compared to the services provided by Rutgers Health Services. 

Andrea Norberg, the executive director of the FXB Center at the Rutgers School of Nursing, said the grant will work with nine clinical states in Washington, D.C., Florida and Louisiana. These are areas with high rates of STIs and HIV.

Washington, D.C., Norberg said, had the highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in the country in 2016. Additionally, the nation’s capital has the highest incidence and prevalence of HIV in the country. 

Within these three regions, members of the FXB center will study clinical sites in both urban and rural areas. She said they hope to help increase adherence with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendations for screening, diagnosing and treating STIs. 

The sites are also funded by the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, with some also obtaining assistance from the Bureau of Primary Health Care, Norberg said. The health centers serve patient populations that include adolescents and young adults. 

Rutgers Health Services (RHS) offers STI and HIV tests and treatment to all students. Jeanne Bernard, the assistant director of marketing at Rutgers Health and Wellness in New Brunswick, said many STIs are treatable if caught early, particularly chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. 

“Untreated, these same STIs can have devastating consequences, including infertility and death,” Bernard said. 

In the Rutgers National College Health Assessment released in October 2017, it was reported that 55.5 percent of students engaged in vaginal intercourse activity in the past 30 days and 56.7 percent were sexually active in the past 12 months. Bernard said the national aggregate results for 2017 found that 63.1 percent of students were sexually active in the past 12 months. 

In 2018, Bernard said RHS recorded 178 cases of chlamydia, 30 cases of genital herpes, 20 cases of genital warts, 22 cases of gonorrhea and four cases of HIV. RHS can test for all these infections.

RHS can provide appropriate medications and/or treatment, including HIV medications like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). 

The FXB Center was formed in 1987 as a clinical program providing family-centered care for HIV, infectious diseases and immunological services. In addition to the $12.5 million grant, the center receives approximately $40 million annually in grants. 

Norberg said the center “aims to reduce socially determined health disparities that are unjust and modifiable by eliminating barriers to high-quality healthcare for vulnerable populations, including people living with HIV and children in the child welfare system. We envision healthcare systems that meet the needs of vulnerable populations, promoting optimum health and eliminating health disparities.”

Brendan Brightman

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