Additional STD Test Statistics in Chapel Hill, NC
Although HIV/AIDS no longer generates the frenzied media coverage that it did when it first emerged as a global public health challenge in the mid-1980s, it still remains a significant health challenge that impact millions of Americans. And residents of Chapel Hill, and the surrounding Durham County, are not immune from this disease. Durham County has the fourth highest rate of HIV infections in North Carolina, with 25.7 infected people per 100,000 individuals. No more specific figures exist for the Chapel Hill community alone, and it is unclear how many UNC-Chapel Hill students may be HIV-positive.
One would anticipate that because of the relatively low number of young adults who undergo HIV testing that any figures would underestimate the true incidence of the disease. This is alarming in light of the fact that a significant percentage of newly diagnosed HIV infections are among individuals between the ages of 13 and 24. And minorities, particularly African-American and Hispanic men, are the most impacted communities.
In addition to concerns about the HIV/AIDS rate, many local public health officials and sexual health educators are concerned about skyrocketing rates of syphilis in the Durham County area. In recent years, the number of recorded syphilis cases has doubled. The situation in Durham County and Chapel Hill seems to closely mirror what is happening nationwide. After decades of almost no syphilis cases and rising hope that the disease had been eradicated, syphilis has re-emerged with a vengeance. Syphilis also raises unique concerns since it is a lifelong illness, unlike gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Not all statistics for Durham County and Chapel Hill are bleak, however. In fact, in recent years, the incident rates for gonorrhea have showed a significant decline, and chlamydia rates have remained relatively constant, even given continued population growth in the region. It is unclear if these improved figures can be attributed to educational efforts and sexual health outreach programs (particularly on the university level) or if it is due to other, as yet undetermined factors.
Given ongoing concerns about STD rates in the community, and the number of young and potentially vulnerable college students, local sexual health educators understand that ongoing education is vital for community health.
STD Testing and Sexual Health Education in Chapel Hill, NC
Sexual health education remains an ongoing challenge in the United States, many conservative communities, particularly in the Southern Bible Belt are strongly opposed to sexual health education in the schools. And they believe that if this education happens that it should be strongly abstinence-based, despite statistics suggesting that abstinence-based education is an abject failure at preventing teenage pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Most individuals and organizations that work with teenagers say that the programs that work are those that provide sober and statistical information and teach practical matters, such as the importance of always using a condom.
Even though Chapel Hill and Durham County are southern areas, they are significantly more liberal than most of the South, and thus, sexual health education is not viewed as being a particularly taboo topic. This is especially true on the campus of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. During orientation, students receive information about sexual health and are talked to about the risks of promiscuous hook-ups at college parties when decision-making may be impaired by drugs or alcohol. Students are also able to get condoms free from resident advisories in dormitories, student health services, and other organizations around campus. Public health officials at the university understand that sexual relations are a fact of modern university life; their goal is to make these interactions as safe as possible.
The Student Wellness Center provides a wide range of services for individual students, as well as group education programs. The Center also understands that the needs of all students are not the same. As a result, they offer specialized services for members of the LGBTQ community, and also provide referrals and information about other services that are available in the community.
These education tools will continue to be vitally important for the foreseeable future. Nationwide, research indicates that a staggering amount of newly reported STDs, particularly for gonorrhea and chlamydia, are among young adults between the ages of 15-24. More and more, within this demographic, there seems to be a growing acceptance of having multiple sexual partners and engaging in casual hookups. These casual hook-ups often are accompanied by unsafe sexual health practices. Again, changing the culture of these teenagers is likely to fail, hook-ups are a fact of modern life. Instead, public health officials in Durham County are focused on ensuring that these encounters are as safe as they can be.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Demographics in Chapel Hill, NC
The demographics of Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Durham County are significantly different than what one would see in the rest of North Carolina, or in southern states as a whole. As noted earlier, Chapel Hill is the most educated community in North Carolina, with more than 70 percent of residents having at least a bachelor’s degree, and many holding advanced degrees. In general, education is usually a driver of better and safer sexual health practices. An educated individual is more likely to use a condom and more likely to have fewer sexual partners. However, this correlation between education and behaviors is not always perfect, especially when drinking and partying (like happens on college campuses) is taken into account.
In addition to the link between education and safer sexual practices, there also tends to be a link between economic vitality and higher incomes and safer sexual health practices. In other words, a person who makes more money is more likely to use a condom and is also more likely to regularly be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. However, the high number of college students in the community throws a little wrinkle into this standard correlation.
The final demographic feature worth noting about the Durham County, and Chapel Hill, area is the high number of young people in the region. Many of these individuals are college students or people who have decided to stay on in the area after graduation, taking advantage of the booming economy and the plethora of high tech jobs in the area. Again, as noted early, younger people (those between the ages of 15 and 24) are often more likely to engage in risky sexual practices for a variety of reasons. This demographic feature of the area is unlikely to change in the near future.
STI Testing Resources in Chapel Hill, NC
Given the fact that it is a university town, and has a renowned school of nursing and public health, and that many of the jobs in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area in the medical and scientific field, it should come as no surprise that there are a plethora of testing choices for people who are concerned about their sexual health.
For University of North Carolina students who have questions or want to be tested, the Student Wellness Center is a great first stop. Most STD testing and treatment can be done directly through on-campus sites. However, if more specialized care is necessary, then the Center can also refer to outside providers. Many students, as well as other members of the community, also receive testing and care at the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Chapel Hill. This facility provides comprehensive testing for STDs, as well as pregnancy testing and contraceptive services. Recognizing that contraception and sexual health requires communication between all partners, the Clinic also has services devoted to men’s health, as well as offering specialized care for members of the LGBTQ community.
For area residents who may be on a fixed income or have difficulty paying for testing through private doctors’ offices and clinics, the Orange County Health Department also offers a wide range of STD testing. Chapel Hill spans both Orange County and Durham County; this makes it somewhat more complicated to determine specific STD rates for only Chapel Hill.
In addition to the above-mentioned options, there is also a wide range of private testing choices for individuals concerned about their sexual health. People can have testing done at their own doctors’ offices, as well as at diagnostic facilities like, Any Lab Test Now, based on their personal preferences.
Better Sexual Health in Chapel Hill, NC
Sexual health is an important component of public well-being. Although some people find it an uncomfortable and even cringe-worthy topic to discuss with friends and family members, it is a topic that needs to be brought out from the dark to protect individual and public health. The time to discuss this issue is now; syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia rates are on the rise in communities around the country, including Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As a community that is dominated by a university, and thus with a significant population of young adults between the ages of 15 and 24, it is important that the community acts proactively to educate the public and offer a wide range of testing options.
People need to educate themselves about safe sexual health practices, and then they need to be tested at one of the facilities highlighted above, or the many other choices that exist around the city.