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Gonorrhea rates decrease after a hike in alcohol tax

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Monday, December 21, 2015, 4:33 PM

CDC estimated that in 2014, there were about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea in the United States.BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

CDC estimated that in 2014, there were about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea in the United States.

Here’s a reason to clap.

A group of researchers from the University of Florida may have found a way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases — raise the taxes on alcohol.

The team made the surprising connection when they discovered a reduced rate of gonorrhea cases in Maryland after the state increased its alcohol sales tax in 2011.

“As a public health professional, I favor any intervention that prevents disease,” Stephanie Staras, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the UF College of Medicine and lead author of the study told the Daily News.

“I feel the results of our study are good news in suggesting that at least some STIs can be prevented with policy changes like alcohol tax increases.”

The study — which was published earlier this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine — showed that gonorrhea rates decreased by 24%, or about 1,600 cases, after the tax increase.

To narrow down what caused the dip in gonorrhea cases, the team used data gathered by the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System for about 10 years — ending in Dec. 2012, about 18 months after the tax hike. The rate amounted to a mere three cents per $ 1.

Researchers — who focused the study on people aged between 15 and 30 years old — compared the information to what was compiled on Rhode Island residents find any similarities and differences that could prompt such a dip in gonorrhea cases.

But the only major initiative that researchers said best explained the low infection rate was the sales tax hike on alcohol, which can sometimes interfere with the decision-making process and lead to more risky sexual behavior.

RM Image, Model Released, Not Property ReleasedTy Downing/www.jupiterimages.com

Gonorrhea rates decreased 24% after the alcohol-specific sales tax increase

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2014, there were about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea in the United States.

“Right now, the only population-level intervention for STIs recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is condom distribution,” Staras said.

“However, the effects we observed in this study are comparable to the effectiveness of condom distribution, and taxes generate revenue rather than spend it — making it a powerful option for policymakers to consider.”

It was not clear in the study why other sexually transmitted diseases were not affected by the sales tax increase.

mstumpf@nydailynews.com

Tags:
alcohol ,
health study ,
sexual health ,
university of florida
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