US NEWS & WORLD REPORT:
THE U.S. IS IN THE middle of a steep and sustained increase in sexually transmitted diseases.
So how are public health officials responding?
In northwest Oregon’s Clackamas County, health officials have decided to ask anyone who comes in with an STD who their sexual partners are — and then track those partners down.
That job falls to two women: registered nurse Mary Horman and disease intervention specialist Liz Baca. They do most of the work over the phone, telling people they’ve had a partner (no name is revealed) who has tested positive for gonorrhea, HIV, chlamydia or syphilis.
It’s a difficult conversation. And many people can’t be reached via phone. So about once a week, Horman and Baca jump into a car and start knocking on doors.
“It can definitely be scary at times,” Baca said, “especially those rural areas where you’re really relying on the GPS to get you there, and sometimes there are roads that lead you to nowhere.” So far, they haven’t gotten lost.
Plenty of residents in the county’s outskirts own firearms, Baca said, and are comfortable displaying them if they feel they need to protect their property.
“I always try to make myself visible and not be fidgety,” she said. Her goal is to approach with as much warmth as possible, saying, “‘I have a nurse with me.’ Or, ‘My name is Liz, and I work for Clackamas County.'”