While Arlington has demonstrated a drop in the cases of sexually transmitted diseases over the past 10 years, the Center for Disease Control has revealed a startling trend- STD cases are once more on the rise across the country. The people most at risk are people ages 14-20, females of child-bearing age and men who have had sexual relations with other men.
The Arlington, VA area has historically had a lower rate of STDs, however, you should not let your guard down. Sexually active adults should be tested regularly even if they haven’t shown symptoms of infection.
Sexually transmitted diseases are bacterial or viral infections spread through sexual contact. With the number of cases increasing across the country, it has never been so important to get tested regularly if you are sexually active. Many people infected with STDs do not show any symptoms and pass the disease on to other partners.
Some quick facts from the CDC:
- 86% of HIV and TES co-infections are among MSM.
- Black women ages 20 to 29 have the highest rate of chlamydia of any age and race group.
- Black men ages 20 to 29 have the highest rate of early syphilis of any age and race group.
- Black persons represent less than 20% of Virginia’s population but comprise 63% of gonorrhea cases.
The Virginia Education Code requires schools to teach Family Life Education. This program is an abstinence-focused program that is set by the school board. The program is a comprehensive program that strives to prove coping mechanisms for teens against peer-pressure and the stress of modern living. The goal is to prevent STDs and teen pregnancy.
Is this enough to help prevent STD and teen pregnancy?
If the CDC stats have anything to indicate. Yes and no. Teen pregnancy has dropped over the years in Virginia. However, teens remain the most vulnerable age group to STD infection.
Teen births are an indicator of the sexual activity of teens. Even though teen pregnancies have dropped, young people are still at risk for STDs. People of the ages between 14 and 20 are the most vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases. The earlier the age of first intercourse the higher the chances of STD infection
Virginia has developed its own approach to the STD epidemic. The goal is to bring clinics, doctors, and educational leaders together to stem the tide of sexually transmitted diseases.
An effective national response to the STD epidemic requires engagement from many players:
- Open discussion about STDs often leads to acceptance. Only by regular testing and by using condoms during every sexual encounter reduces the risks of disease.
- A joint effort between parents and teachers educates young people on the risks. Honest discussions reduce embarrassment and help young people separate fact from fiction.
- The delivery of more services to minorities and lower income people who are more at risk for STDs.
Routine screenings are especially important if you are sexually active and a teen. If you are worried about your parents finding out, STD screenings are available for teens even without parental consent. However, in some instances, parents or guardians can be notified that services have been received because of legal or billing regulations.
This should not stop you from being tested. Many STD’s can be cured or managed with the right treatment. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are all bacterial infections which can be cured by antibiotics if they are caught early. Other infections such as herpes and genital warts are manageable with the right medications.
The only way to know if you are infected is to get tested.
Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Your risk is increased by certain factors such as:
- Have you, or your partner had several partners?
- Have you or your partner been diagnosed with an STD?
- Do you use a condom during every sexual encounter?
- Are you a teen?
- Are you a male and have had sexual relations with another male?
- Are you female?
In 2006, Arlington, Virginia was ranked the most educated city. Arlington County also ranked in highest median income. In 2011 the CDC published a Public Heath statement related to the issues that minorities face which make it more difficult to maintain healthy lifestyles. Poverty, limited education, poor jobs and other factors contribute to the rise of STD cases. Because of better education and lower poverty rates, the STD case rate has continued to fall in Arlington.
History has a way of making you realize how short life really is. Go ahead and enjoy a great evening with your partner, just remember to play it safe. That means getting tested. While STDs are lower in the Arlington area, it doesn’t mean you can’t become infected. Low and free testing sites are available. With one phone call, you can avoid the lines and protect yourself. In less than half an hour you can take care of your sexual health with plenty of time to see the sights.