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With STD rates on the rise, ACR Health offers new three-point testing

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Wil Murtaugh, executive director of ACR Health, center, with Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, far left, and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, left.

While there has been tremendous progress made in reducing the amount of HIV infections in New York State over the past two decades, more recently, the rates of some sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia, have been increasing across the state and in Onondaga County. ACR Health in Syracuse is conducting new three-point testing to identify these infections sooner. 

The three-point testing involves urine screenings, rectal and throat swabs. The concern is that infections are being missed with just the traditional urine testing alone.

"Traditional gonorrhea and chlamydia testing, urine screening, doesn’t pick up infections that might be in other areas, like an infection in the rectum, or an infection in the throat,” said John Arcaro, director of prevention, community initiatives at ACR Health. “The new tests are throat and rectal swabs, which will help clients better understand their total health status." 

Two months ago, ACR Health found a person positive for chlamydia in the throat, gonorrhea in the rectum and nothing in the urine.

“We’re wondering through the years, how many we have missed just because we were only doing urine testing," said Wil Murtaugh, executive director of ACR Health. "This is going to help collect and identify the bacteria wherever it’s at. It’s a way to get people identified and cured faster so they’re not more susceptible to HIV.” 

Murtaugh said when someone’s immune system is compromised, it can be easier to contract HIV. Sores from infections are another point of entry for the virus.

A 2017 report shows the rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia increasing in New York State, as well as syphilis cases outside of New York City. 

This week marks ACR Health’s annual AIDS awareness campaign, which leads up to an AIDS Walk/Run at the Beaver Lake Nature Center near Baldwinsville on Sunday. 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.