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Iowa Division of Public Health

December 2023

Regional Health Specialist Newsletter: Region 4, December 2023
From the desk of Nicky Stansell,  your Region 4 Regional Health Specialist

The Regional Health Specialist newsletter is a monthly update for all community partners. In each newsletter, you'll find updates pertaining to HIV, STIs, and hepatitis C in Iowa, plus other topics of interest. For suggestions on content, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

In this issue:

  • World AIDS Day is this Friday, December 1
  • Ways to Take Part in World AIDS Day 2023

  • We Are Still Here: Documentary Premiere

  • Introducing: Health Equity Spotlight!

  • Congenital Syphilis Increases in the U.S. and Iowa

  • RHS attended the NaRCAD 11th International Conference, "Catalysts for Change: Powerful Conversations for Better Care"

  • Congenital Syphilis Increases in the U.S. and Iowa

  • Recent Report Releases:

    • CDC Releases Vital Signs Report on State of Syphilis

    • 2022 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Findings Brief
    • Family Planning Services in Iowa 2020 and 2021 Report

  • Holiday Wishes from the RHS


World AIDS Day is Friday, December 1

About World AIDS Day

Every year on December 1, the world unites to commemorate World AIDS Day. This annual event serves as a reminder of the global struggle to end HIV-related stigma, an opportunity to honor those we have lost, and a rallying cry to continue working toward a day when HIV is no longer a public health threat. 

The first World AIDS Day took place in 1988, providing a platform to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS and honor the lives affected by the epidemic. This year marks the 35th commemoration of this important day. Over the past 35 years, there has been significant progress in addressing HIV and AIDS thanks to advancements in medical research, increased access to treatment and prevention, and a broader understanding of the virus.

Ways to Take Part in World AIDS Day 2023

World AIDS Day 2023

World AIDS Day 35:
Remember and Commit

This year’s U.S. theme, “Remember and Commit,” pays tribute to those we have lost to HIV/AIDS. The impact of this epidemic has been profound, affecting individuals, families, and entire communities across the globe. Remembering the lives lost not only honors their memory but also emphasizes the urgency of our commitment to end the HIV epidemic.

Read a reflection on this year's theme from the White House Office of National AIDS Policy

Attend an Event

NIH World AIDS Day 35 Event: Achieving Excellence and Equity in HIV Research
Friday, Dec. 1, 10–11:30 a.m. CT | Webinar

World AIDS Day Commemoration: A Night of Remembrance & HopeDes Moines, IA
Friday, Dec. 1 | 6–8 p.m. CT | The Garden Restaurant & Show Lounge, Des Moines

World AIDS Day ReceptionOmaha, NE
Friday, Dec. 1 | noon to 2 p.m. CT | University of Nebraska Omaha—Milo Bail Student Center

Resources & More Information

UNAIDS—Let Communities Lead | WORLD AIDS DAY 2023

World AIDS Day | Messages & Digital Tool Kit

Global HIV Resources


We Are Still Here: Documentary Premiere

The Project of the Quad Cities (TPQC) is hosting a premiere screening of “We Are Still Here: the Past and Present of HIV in Our Country & Community” on Thursday, Nov. 30.

The documentary, produced by TPQC, features people from the Quad Cities living with HIV and captures the local history of HIV while examining the larger national story. The film is approximately 1 hour. After the premiere, the documentary will be available on YouTube or the TPQC website at

The premiere is at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, IA, on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 6:30 p.m. No RSVP is needed.

Watch a preview of We Are Still Here

Health Equity Spotlight

Introducing: Health Equity Spotlight!

We're very excited to introduce a new feature of the RHS newsletter: a health equity spotlight! Each month, this section of the newsletter will highlight health equity information that you can apply to your daily work to help improve patient experiences and their health outcomes.

The Health Equity Spotlight will be written by Alicia Mercado, our Lead Regional Health Specialist and Health Equity Educator. She has been with the Bureau of HIV, STI, and Hepatitis, Capacity Extension Program as a Regional Health Equity Specialist (RHS) since Aug. 2022. Alicia is excited to be offering equity-focused ideas and tips that positively impact the experience of people seeking services!

If you have any questions about health equity or would like to request that a certain topic be covered in the Health Equity Spotlight, please contact Alicia at

Congenital Syphilis Increase in the U.S. and Iowa

Congenital Syphilis Increases in the U.S. and Iowa 

The following is an excerpt from the notice shared on November 17, 2023, in
the Iowa HHS Epi Update

Last week, CDC released an MMWR highlighting increases in congenital syphilis and missed opportunities in prevention in the U.S. Lack of timely testing and treatment of pregnant women with syphilis stands out as a common association.   

Syphilis increases in Iowa have mirrored those of the nation as a whole. From 2018 to 2022, infectious syphilis cases in Iowa increased more than 260%, and congenital syphilis has followed a similar trend. Congenital syphilis was once a rare occurrence in Iowa, with one case or fewer reported annually. However, the 11 cases reported in Iowa in 2021 was more than the previous 20 years combined. With several weeks remaining in 2023, Iowa has already exceeded the number of cases reported in all of 2022...

Considering these trends, Iowa HHS recommends serological testing for syphilis among pregnant women at three intervals: during their first prenatal visit, at 28-32 weeks gestation, and again at delivery. Pregnant women may initially test negative at their first prenatal visit and acquire the infection later in pregnancy. Symptoms may not be obvious. Furthermore, neonates with congenital syphilis may appear normal at physical examination, particularly if the mother acquired the infection late in pregnancy. These infants may develop a rapid onset of symptoms several months after birth.   

Read the full Iowa HHS Epi Update notice on congenital syphilis increases

View the full MMWR article on missed opportunities for preventing congenital syphilis

Darla Peterson presents at NaRCAD 2023

RHS attended the NaRCAD 11th International Conference, "Catalysts for Change: Powerful Conversations for Better Care"

Last month, the Regional Health Specialists attended the NaRCAD 11th International Conference in Boston, MA. The conference series focused on educational outreach and healthcare quality improvement, creating a unique opportunity to learn, share, and network with experts. Our team had the opportunity to connect with colleagues working in academic detailing, public health, clinical outreach education, practice transformation, government, non-profits, hospital and provider networks, insurers, and academic institutions. Darla Peterson, the Regional Health Specialist in Northwest Iowa, presented on the topic of “The Intersection of HIV, Hepatitis C, and Drug Use: Collaborating with State Partners to Improve Outcomes.”

Watch Video Recording (presentation begins at 3 hrs, 13 min) Download Slide Deck PDF

Recent Report Releases:

CDC Releases Vital Signs Report on State of Syphilis: 

The number of babies born with syphilis in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate. Last week, the CDC released a Vital Signs report on the state of syphilis and congenital syphilis in the US, which has increased by 31% in 2022 alone. Read the report.

— — —

2022 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
Findings Brief:

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is an annual, state-based survey system that collects data on health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, health care access, and use of preventive services from the adult population in Iowa using telephone interviews. HHS uses the survey findings to measure population health changes over time, better design programming and policies, strengthen grant applications with state-specific population health data, and track progress towards public health goals. 

The 2022 BRFSS Findings Brief is now live on the BRFSS webpage. 

— — —

Family Planning Services in Iowa 2020 and 2021 Report:

Iowa HHS recently released the Family Planning Services in Iowa, 2020 and 2021 report.
The report is presented as a series of six issue briefs. Each brief provides information on the array of state-administered family planning programs in Iowa, including summaries of the State Family Planning Program (FPP), the Iowa Health and Wellness (IHAWP) plan and Medicaid which comprise Medicaid Family Planning Services, and the Title X Family Planning Program. 

Read the report here.


Happy Holidays!

Holiday Wishes from the RHS

As we enter the season of holidays, the Regional Health Specialists want to thank you for the many gifts you bring to Iowans across the state. Your commitment and compassion for those you serve does not go unrecognized. And, if we could, we would gift all of you with a cup of something warm, a few chapters of a book to read in the evening, special time with a loved one, and a moment or two to reflect on the year we are leaving and anticipate the one before us. From all of us, we wish you peace, health and strength this season and in the New Year.

In the News: HIV, Hepatitis, STI




Of Interest:

Online Resources

The Iowa Division of Public Health; Bureau of HIV, STI, and Hepatitis; and the NuCara Capacity Extension Program have numerous web resources available! 

Bureau of HIV, STI, and Hepatitis: The Bureau’s website provides state and county resources as well as data on chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis. 

Stop HIV Iowa: Stop HIV Iowa provides information related to FREE HIV testing, prevention, and care services throughout the state. PrEP Iowa houses resources for providers and consumers related to pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP and nPEP). This website also has information on Iowa’s TelePrEP program, which provides PrEP directly to patients using telemedicine. 

Iowa Public Health Tracking Portal: The Iowa Public Health Tracking Portal serves as a centralized source for public health data.  

MyIACondoms: Tools. Education. Resources. Iowa's Connection to Sexual Health. Any organization can use MyIACondoms to order free condoms, learn about other locations that offer free condoms, or review sexual health information.

Naloxone Iowa: Visit Naloxone Iowa for information on naloxone or Narcan, which can be used to halt or reverse an opioid overdose. Iowans can access free Narcan at commercial pharmacies or via an appointment with Iowa’s TeleNaloxone program, which mails Narcan directly to you.

Epi Update: The Epi Update is a weekly newsletter from the Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology (CADE) and the HHS Bureau of HIV, STI, and Hepatitis. 

Your Life Iowa: If you or a loved one are facing a problem with alcohol, drugs, gambling, mental health or suicidal thoughts, you’re not alone. IDPH created so Iowans can chat live, text, or call and get reliable information, treatment options, or find nearby help.

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