12/14/0 11:33 AM Inches: 12.8 REGULAR BC-NV-SafeSex 1stLd-Writethru 12-14 0540

Nevada ranks below national average for sex diseases

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LAS VEGAS (AP) - Despite the amount sex for sale in Nevada brothels and strip clubs, the state ranks below the national average for some common sexually transmitted diseases, although studies show increases on several fronts.

''There's hardly any disease in the legal brothels,'' said Donald Cowne, Nevada state disease control specialist. He called people engaged in the sex trade ''well-informed professionals'' who take precautions against infection.

Women are checked by doctors every week, said Jeannie Jordan, manager of Donna's Ranch in Wells. And Nevada law requires patrons to use condoms.

An owner of one of the many strip clubs in Las Vegas said his employees were well-educated about the risks of disease.

Prostitution is not legal in Las Vegas.

Despite being below the national average, the number of new gonorrhea cases in Clark County increased 13 percent in the first half of this year, a report by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

The CDC report did not address chlamydia, the most commonly reported sexually transmitted disease, or HIV and AIDS, an affliction that weakens the body's immune system.

But state and county studies found increases in HIV and AIDs cases as well as chlamydia.

A state report ranked Nevada 10th in the nation in HIV and AIDS in 1999, with a rate of 17 new cases per 100,000 people in 1999. New York was ranked first, with 39 HIV and AIDS cases per 100,000.

Bill Hill, a state Health Department official, said the state is charting an increase this year in HIV and AIDS cases.

There were 275 new cases of HIV and 259 cases of AIDS reported in Nevada in 1999. As of Oct. 31, the state reported 295 cases of HIV and 234 cases of AIDS.

There were 593 new cases of gonorrhea reported in Clark County from January to June, compared with 515 cases in the same period in 1999.

Nevada's rate of gonorrhea cases was just 75 per 100,000 people in calendar 1999 - well below the national average of 133 cases per 100,000. South Carolina leads the nation with 392 cases per 100,000.

Nevada ranked second behind Arizona in gonorrhea cases in the western United States. Arizona had 92 cases per 100,000 people in 1999. California had 57; New Mexico, 56. Utah had 12 cases per 100,000 people.

Gonorrhea is a common and curable sexually transmitted disease. Symptoms can include pain during urination, but most women exhibit no symptoms.

Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, reported a rise in chlamydia cases this year - from a total of 2,005 cases in all of 1999 to 2,183 cases so far in 2000. Despite the increases, Nevada remains below the national average.

Mary Ellen Harrell, a public health nurse for the Clark County Health District, said officials weren't sure why chlamydia was increasing. She said the health department was increasing testing for chlamydia and emphasizing education about the disease.

Three of four infected women and half of infected men exhibit no symptoms. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility and increase the risk of contracting HIV.


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