Proud of its originality and the state capitol Austin, Texas has a thriving music, art and cultural scene. Home to the “Bat Bridge and cave”, Austin, TX is also experiencing a rise in the number of cases of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Herpes, Hepatitis B and C, Herpes, HIV, and Syphilis, and not enough free STD testing centers to provide adequate treatment for everyone. While there are STD clinics the long lines have many residents searching for a different option. Now you can schedule private STD testing and only spend 20 minutes at a local lab, which still gives you plenty of time to visit the eclectic shops and museums scattered around town.
For the past twenty years Austin has been experiencing a steady increase in the number of reported STDs, and statistics show that this is not expected to change. What has city and state health officials truly concerned is the unexpected rise in the number of reported cases of 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 the number of reported cases of 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, some state and local officials are beginning to realize 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 awareness about the dangers of unprotected sex. 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 from the dangers associated with unprotected sex.
Without sexual education programs students will also not be aware that they can still contract an STD even without having intercourse. Some viral infections like Herpes and HIV 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 stop the spread of the virus. It is also vitally important to your health and that of others to get regular HIV testing in Austin.
A simple HIV screening is often the only way to detect the virus, and can help slow down its progression into AIDS. Not only can regular testing help save your life, it can also keep those around you safe and free from infection.
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 which play a role in the STD rates among residents. 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 the number of reported STDs, and much of this is 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, along with poverty and a simple lack of caring. 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 an increase in the number of reported STDs which makes it important to get tested regularly. While there are a number of clinics, long lines and the potential embarrassment of running into a friend or family member has many residents choosing to schedule confidential STD testing. It only takes one quick phone call and a 20 minute visit to a local lab to take care of your sexual health, and you will still have plenty of time to visit the unique shops, boutiques, and fabulous restaurants that make Austin a great city.