Austin has been experiencing a steady growth in STIs, and this is not expected to change. What has city and state health officials truly concerned is the unexpected rise in primary and secondary Syphilis. This STD hasn’t seen such a steady increase since the 1940’s, and many health officials are surprised to see its return. What is even more surprising is it seems to be targeting Caucasian and African American men who are otherwise healthy.
Other statistics remained steady, though gonorrhea does seem to be declining which has led some residents to believe that the abstinence initiative is working. Countering this mistaken belief are the recent statistics for Austin and Travis County that show teens and young adults are still sexually active. Some of these statistics include,
- Since 2006 HIV has increased by 40 percent.
- It is estimated that there are at least 1,100 cases of HIV in the city where residents do not know that they are infected.
- 17 percent of the HIV infections occur in young African American women.
- Between 2007 and 2014 the number of Caucasian women with Chlamydia almost doubled.
Table 1. Number of persons living with HIV by race/ethnicity, Greater Austin Area, 2006-2012
The highest rate of STD infections occurred in men and women under the age of 35, with teens and young adults being the most affected. As these numbers are expected to continue to increase, it is becoming apparent that education needs to be implemented in the city’s schools.
Table 2. Number of persons living with HIV by age groups and gender, Greater Austin Area, 2012
Austin also follows the state standard of emphasizing abstinence in its independent school system, instead of promoting STI awareness. It should be noted that condoms are available to students who have signed up for the short program, but there is not any information available on how to properly use a prophylactic. While this is a small step in the right direction to help slow down the spread of STDs, and prevent teen pregnancies it is not enough to protect students and young adults.
Without sexual education programs students will also not be aware that they can still contract an STD even without having intercourse. Some viral infections can be spread through contact, and some people may not exhibit symptoms until they have accidentally infected others. Herpes testing can prevent embarrassing flare ups, along with helping to prevent further infections. It is also vitally important to your health and that of others to get regular HIV testing in Austin.
Austin might be the capital, but it has a unique flair all its own. It is a blend of funky art and southwestern style, mixed in with professional charm. This blend of styles and cultures can also be seen in the city’s demographics. The fun and laid back attitude of the residents has made it possible for several clinics to open in some of the downtown neighborhoods.
This has made it easier for inner city children and their families to receive proper health care, including regular testing for many of the common STDs. It is some of the outlying neighborhoods that are experiencing the biggest rise in STIs, often due to religious beliefs and a lack of clinics. Conservative beliefs strongly promote abstinence, and many parents do not believe in discussing sex with their children.
Unlike other cities where the majority of the STD cases are generally concentrated in the inner neighborhoods, the opposite seems to be true for Austin. This is not to say that a language barrier and cultural practices do not also play a role in the rising rate of STDs. Until city officials are ready to fully recognize the problem and understand the importance of educating students about the dangers of unprotected sex will the STD rates start to decrease across the city.
Home to several famous kinetic wind artists and the state capital, Austin is a fun and vibrant city that has something for everyone. Unfortunately it is also dealing with STDs which makes it important to get screened regularly. There are a number of clinics, but many residents are choosing to schedule confidential STD testing. One quick phone call and a 20 minute visit at a conveniently located lab, and you’ll still be able to visit the unique shops, boutiques, and fabulous restaurants that make Austin a great city.