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The teenagers tucked their hands into their sweatshirt pockets as they shuffled to form a circle. Some gazed at the asphalt, trying to avoid the game they had been drafted to play. The kids gathered on a spring morning in South Los Angeles were about to get a hands-on lesson in sex education.

For sexual health, that means combating the stigma around sex. The teenagers, the girl explained, would pass a plastic, life-size penis around the circle. Whoever was holding it when the music stopped would have to unroll a condom onto it, completing each of the eight steps they had been taught a few minutes earlier. The recent all-day event, called Spring Into Lovewas intended to get high schoolers more comfortable talking about sex. The hope is that an open dialogue will make them more likely to seek out condoms and STD testing, and eventually reduce the spread of disease.

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The focus on stigma is just one of many ways Los Angeles County health officials are trying to think outside the box as they struggle to curb rising STD rates. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, L. The county recently created a Center for Health Equity to evaluate the way certain public health issues are intertwined with social factors such as income and education, as well as racial discrimination.

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In just the past five years, the of gonorrhea cases in Los Angeles County doubled, with minorities suffering more than most. The church auditorium was decked out in streamers and balloons. Kids chatted around tables with piles of Mardi Gras be and condoms at the center. Spring Into Love, which began five years ago, is the brainchild of a coalition of L. County health advocates trying to bring down STD rates. Ashley Deras, 18, showed a group of students how to safely open a condom wrapper.

She said her family almost never talked to her about sex. Many said their parents would be mad at them for asking questions about sex at all. Many feel uncomfortable walking into an STD clinic or talking to their partners about safe practices. County, half of chlamydia cases and a third of gonorrhea cases diagnosed each year are among people between the ages of 15 and Researchers increasingly view public health problems as shaped by the environments in which people live.

The center will target five health disparitiesincluding high rates of STDs among certain minority groups. Nationwide, STD rates have been climbing for the past five years. More people were diagnosed with syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhea in than ever before. Some blame underfunding of STD prevention programs, as well as falling condom usage.

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But the picture is more complicated when it comes to the high STD rates among minorities. Gay and bisexual men make up the vast majority of new syphilis cases. County, syphilis rates among African American women are six times higher than white women and three times higher than Latina women. Studies have found, for example, that people with HIV who had low levels of literacy were less likely to follow their treatment, and that poorer Americans were more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, increasing their risk of STDs. Poverty or a lack of opportunity may be forcing women to exchange sex for resources, leading to the spread of STDs, Northover said.

There also tends to be a mistrust of the medical system among African Americans, making them reluctant to seek care. Certain neighborhoods may be excluded from access to healthcare because of geography or finances, she said.

But the still-growing case s suggest the approach needs to be reimagined, said Dr. Michael Hochman, a senior health deputy for the supervisor. Please consider subscribing today to support stories like this one. Get full access to our ature journalism for just 99 cents for the first four weeks. Already a subscriber? Your support makes our work possible.

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About Us. B2B Publishing. Business Visionaries. Hot Property. Times Events. Times Store. Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing options. Barbara Ferrer, the recently appointed head of the L. County Department of Public Health, speaks at a news conference about reducing unintended pregnancy rates among youth in Los Angeles.

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