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Denton County officials to spotlight health trends at community meeting

The growing number of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis cases in Denton County could be among several health concerns discussed at the Community Health Summit on Wednesday. 

The educational event will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Denton County Southwest Courthouse in Flower Mound. It will be centered on health trends covered in the recently released 2017 Community Health Assessment

The 63-page document includes in-depth health data from multiple agencies, including the United Way of Denton County, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton and the Denton County Public Health Department. 

Aside from the rate of sexually transmitted diseases, the document also discusses infant mortality rates, the number of new HIV diagnoses, suicide rates, and health disparities among ethnic groups in Denton County. 

"We are going to, as a community, draft goals for addressing those areas of concern in a community health improvement plan," Alex Reed, health planner and trainer at the county health department, said of Wednesday's meeting. 

According to the report, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis rates have been increasing in Denton County since 2013. In 2015, 2,204 people were diagnosed with chlamydia, while 541 were diagnosed with gonorrhea, the data shows. That year, 98 people were diagnosed with syphilis.  

The majority of new STD diagnoses were concentrated in people ages 15 to 25. 

"[STDs] are also a very national problem, where these cases are going higher and higher and it's getting harder to treat," said Juan Rodriguez, assistant health director and chief epidemiologist for Denton County. "The more people that have it, the more it can spread." 

Also in 2015, the rate of new HIV diagnoses in the county slightly increased from the previous year, though it's still lower than the state averages, according to the report. The data shows that 6.3 people per 100,000 county residents were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2015. The document did not provide an exact numeric rate for new HIV diagnoses in 2014. 

The 2015 rate is lower than Tarrant and Dallas Counties but slightly higher than Collin County, the report states. African-American residents are the most affected ethnic group in this category. 

"In Denton County, black, non-Hispanic residents are living with HIV at a 33 percent higher rate than Hispanic residents," according to the document.  

Roughly 460 African-Americans per 100,000 Denton County residents were living with HIV in 2015, according to the report. The second-most prevalent group in that category was Hispanics, with roughly 160 living with the disease for every 100,000 Denton County residents. 

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.