Centennial is a quiet city in Arapahoe County with a high rate of STDs, according to CDC statistics. While there are counties with higher percentages of sexually transmitted diseases, the numbers for this community are above national averages and this is reason enough for concern.
The gonorrhea rate for the county is estimated at 91.1 per 100,000 residents, and this is significantly higher than the national average at 30.5 percent. The same is also true for Chlamydia rates which are estimated at 559.5 per 100,000 residents. The rates for the other common sexually transmitted diseases are also high in the area, including primary and secondary Syphilis.
Recent studies show that STD rates are up among teens, especially Chlamydia rates in women. The Herpes virus is also becoming more prevalent, and is now thought to affect an estimated 2 percent of the population. While Chlamydia seems to affect more women, Gonorrhea and Syphilis diagnoses are increasing in frequency among men. It is not just teens and young adults contracting these viruses, but older men are also finding themselves at an increased risk.
Some of the other statistics that indicate that there is a growing problem with STDs in the area include,
- 2 percent of high school students are positive for the Herpes virus.
- The number of teens in juvenile detention facilities with Chlamydia is estimated to be four times higher than the national average.
- African American females are among those with the highest risk of contracting a Chlamydia or another venereal disease.
In response to the growing number of students who tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease, the state legislature passed a bill making it mandatory for all public schools to include pertinent and current information on the use of contraceptives and the various methods that STDs can be spread.
While this was met with resistance by parents, religious leaders and even educators, in general most residents were in favor of the new policies. Over the last ten years the number of teens and young adults that test positive for a sexually transmitted disease has been steadily increasing, and it is not just Herpes or the HPV virus that is affecting students. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates are steadily climbing, and the number of teens that graduate pregnant is also increasing.
Implemented in 2013 the rate of STDs is already decreasing in some school districts, but the new classes are not enough to adequately protect everyone. Even though the lessons do cover the importance of Herpes testing in Centennial, it is still not enough to effectively lower the rate of infection. While some of this is due to a few parents opting their children out of the classes, the majority of the problem continues to be a lack of testing. This is also true regarding regular HIV testing in Centennial. While the number of residents currently infected with the virus is relatively low, without regular testing this rate is expected to rise.
While this may be a more rural area this does not mean that residents have a reduced risk of contracting a STD. In some instances the opposite may actually be true. Due to its smaller population there are only a few health clinics located in the area, and long lines and a shortage of health care professionals are common. This makes it difficult for health officials to convince residents to take advantage of the opportunity to be tested, especially since no one wants to spend the whole day in a clinic.
There are also stereotypes and misconceptions regarding how STDs are spread, along with what measures are best able to provide residents with the protection they need. The new classes have been addressing these and other issues, but until everyone understands that they need to be tested for all of the sexually transmitted diseases at least once or twice a year the rate of infection will continue to rise.
Many teens and even adults often find it difficult to find someone to talk to when they are having issues with their sexual health. Some teens believe that the symptoms will clear up on their own, while others are too ashamed and embarrassed to admit that they have a problem. Until they understand that a sexually transmitted disease can happen to anyone, it will continue to be difficult to convince them how important it is to take care of their sexual health.
Even though the right steps are being taken to help protect residents from the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, there is still a lot that needs to be done before STDs are no longer a threat to everyone’s health.
Watching the sun set behind the Rockies does make it easy to forget that there is a problem with STDs in the city, and that it is important to take the time to take care of your sexual health. If you are one of the hundreds of residents who have been putting off testing due to long lines at the clinics, you now have another option. You can schedule confidential STD testing with just a phone call and only spend a few minutes at a lab, which still gives you plenty of time to enjoy all of the great outdoor activities in Centennial.