While Atlanta, Georgia is a thriving city filled with opportunity and culture, it also struggles with its rates of STD infections. In fact, the rate with which HIV is spread through the city has been the focus of several news stories as well as a serious concern for local health organizations. While gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia are all areas of concern, the HIV rates in Atlanta have become an issue spotlighted nationally and locally.
According to a recent study, the facts about HIV in Atlanta are alarming:
- Gay men who are sexually active make up the largest proportion, 51%, of people living with HIV in Atlanta.
- 16% of Atlanta based HIV cases are the result of IV drug use
- The rate for women with AIDS has climbed from 4% to 19% since 1987.
- Fully half of new HIV infection cases are found in younger people between the ages of 16 – 24.
Rates for other STDs also continue to rise in the area. A closer look at the rates of all STDs reveals not only a general, though slight, rise in some STDs but also shows which groups of the local population are most at risk.
These rates show that women and minorities remain the most vulnerable, a trend which has been repeated in many other cities and suggests that outreach and education focused on these groups is more important than ever before.
Georgia has required sex education to be taught in schools since 1988 but the law allows for schools to teach prevention as well as abstinence-only lessons, making it difficult for many parents to know exactly what their kids are being taught until their children enter the class.
Styles and curriculum vary widely from one district to another as well from one school to another, which further muddies the waters. As a result, many school age children don’t receive comprehensive sexual education and the climbing rates of STD infection in the city reflect that fact.
The haphazard approach to educating young people is part of the reason why so many don’t bother with HIV testing in Atlanta, GA as well as testing for more common STDs such as Herpes. Herpes testing in Atlanta, Georgia is readily available but still, too few people pursue it, believing the condition is harmless.
Overall, the sexual health for residents of Atlanta, GA is hampered by a number of issues. First there is the problem with sexual education for minors and young adults. With no firm framework in place, some kids are taught abstinence only while others receive more comprehensive education. This approach sends mixed messages from an early age.
The second issue affecting the overall health for people in the city is a lack of outreach, resulting in more young people being affected by STD transmission. Young women, in particular, account for more cases of many STDs than young men in the same age range. This is illustrated well by comparing transmission rates for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia among young men and women.
Finally, there is the issue of accessibility to STD testing in Atlanta, Georgia. Many large cities have a hard time providing enough access to STD testing and in this regard, Atlanta is no different.
The Atlanta Department of Health does provide outreach, education and testing help for local residents. Recently, they launched an annual event aimed at educating people about STD transmission, treatment and testing. The month long event takes place in April and is called, fittingly enough, STD Awareness Month.
But even with this newest approach to education, more still needs to be done to encourage people to be tested. Some Atlanta residents don’t realize it’s possible – and easy – to get a safe, secure and confidential STD test locally.
The local government offers a number of free and low cost STD clinic options for testing and treatment, but these are often crowded and take people on a walk-in basis. This approach does make it easier for people to access help, but it also makes it more difficult for people to schedule it into their day.
Obtaining an STD test is the easiest way to get a clear picture on your sexual health. Not only can it tell you if you’ve already been infected with an STD, it gives you the chance to speak one on one with a professional healthcare adviser. Sitting with a health care provider lets you ask questions about sexual protection as well as your level of risk when it comes to STD exposure.
Confidential STD testing is, in many ways, preferred over the public health offerings Atlanta offers. While these free STD clinics are a valuable resource, private and confidential STD testing makes it easier for people to sit down and review their current status and ways to prevent infections in the future.