Situated along the scenic Cedar River it is hard to believe that there is a health crisis occurring. Cedar Rapids and surrounding Linn County are seeing a steady rise in the number of sexually transmitted diseases reported each year, and health officials are worried that these numbers are only going to increase.
The majority of STD incidents are still occurring in men and women ages 15 to 24, though older males do seem to be at a greater risk of contracting primary or secondary Syphilis. Females are also twice as likely to test positive for Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea rates are increasing in men.
Even though the statistics show that there are some demographical factors affecting a person’s chances of contracting a transmitted disease, these numbers also highlight the sobering fact that everyone is potentially at risk. Some of the statistics recently released by the CDC that help to stress the seriousness of the problem include,
- In 2011 the HIV rate was 61 compared to the 65 percent prevalence rate reported in 2015.
- Gonorrhea rates for the county were reported at 108.8 in 2015, compared to the national average of 30.5.
- The county reported 986 cases of Chlamydia and 230 positive test results for Gonorrhea which surpassed the state averages in 2012.
While the city does still use the abstinence only program suggested by the Federal Government there might soon be a change in the material included in the sexual education classes offered to high school students. Even the local officials are not ready to start discussing sex and STDs with middle school students, they are willing to admit that something needs to be done to protect teenagers and young adults.
The bill currently being discussed in the state capitol will make it mandatory for all public high schools to implement the new curriculum if it passes, and health officials are hopeful that this is just the first step in a proactive fight against STDs. What sets this bill apart from others introduced around the country is that it was written with the help of those who will be the most affected.
Several high school students helped to write the bill and have asked that it include information on dating violence, STDs along with ways to protect themselves when they are sexually active. State law makers who helped sponsor the bill are also hopeful that this will give teens a safe place to discuss their concerns and fears about STDs and the responsibilities they need to take when they do engage in sexual activity.
The demographics in the city and county are affecting the STD rates, but the numbers are disproportionate when compared. The majority of the residents in the area are Caucasian and they do account for most of the STD diagnosis, but Hispanics, Asians and African Americans have a higher percentage rate of infection.
In 2012 it was estimated that 43 percent of the gonorrhea cases were in African Americans, who only comprise around 4 percent of the population. The same is also true for Chlamydia rates, along with those for HIV/AIDS. What these numbers suggest is that more needs to be done to educate minorities on the importance of regular testing.
There are several reasons why the STD rates for Cedar Rapids do not match the population numbers, but the main cause is a lack of education. Many teens and young adults do not understand the dangers associated with being sexually active, and a larger majority simply does not care.
Adding to the problem is a lack of community health centers in lower income neighborhoods, and recent budget cuts are forcing more clinics to close its doors. Without these centers many residents simple cannot afford to be tested, and fewer clinics also mean long lines and crowded waiting rooms. While this might be inconvenient, it is still important for everyone in the city to be tested regularly.
Before spending a day on the river or exploring the impressive Masonic Library and Museum take a few minutes for your sexual health. With the shortage of community health centers finding a place to be tested quickly and easily can seem almost impossible. Now you can schedule confidential STD testing simply by making one quick and easy phone call. Instead of spending hours in a noisy and crowded waiting you can simply walk into a nearby lab. It only takes 20 minutes or so to be tested.