Recently the CDC and Butte County Health Department released statistics highlight the rising STD rates in the area. While the city and county are below state averages. The number of sexually transmitted diseases reported annually is rising, and has been for the past twenty years.
Two sexually transmitted diseases that are rising at an alarming rate are Gonorrhea and Syphilis. The symptoms associated with these diseases are often mistaken for the common cold, which means the STDs are not diagnosed until others have already been exposed. This is especially true for men who often don’t want to be seen as being weak, and it is thought to be one of the reasons the rates for these two sexually transmitted diseases are rising faster in males.
Chlamydia rates are also rising, especially among women ages 20 to 24. In 2013 the number of infections reported annually surpassed state averages, and has continued to increase. Gonorrhea is also up in women and men, and the same is also true for Syphilis which doubled in the 12 month period between 2014 and 2015.
The statistics also show that it is not just teens and young adults that are at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease, but older residents are testing positive more often as well. Syphilis and HIV diagnoses are up in men over the age of 25, and the same is true regarding Gonorrhea.
As the number of sexually transmitted infections reported annually continue to rise, it has never been so important for all residents to be tested on a regular basis.
- In 2011 there were 49 cases of Gonorrhea reported in the county, compared to 300 in 2014.
- 2015 saw 762 cases of Chlamydia with the majority reported in Caucasian women ages 30 to 24.
- In the 12 month period between 2014 and 2015 the Syphilis rate in men nearly doubled.
In response to the rising STD rates in the city and across the state lawmakers recently passed a bill that mandates that all public school systems follow the same curriculum when it comes to their sex education programs.
In the past all public schools were required to teach HIV prevention, but not all districts were providing additional information on STDs and other important topics. Some sex education classes did not provide students with information on how to protect themselves from STDs, and the subject of regular testing was rarely discussed.
Under the new law, which went into effect at the start of the 2016 school year, all of these topics are now included in the sex education programs, along with information on gender identity, relationship abuse, sexual assault, and even sex trafficking. These classes will begin in the 7th grade and continue through high school. This will help ensure that all of the information presented to students is appropriate for their age.
These changes also include informing students about the importance of regular Herpes testing in Chico, and how the simple procedure could stop the virus from continuing to spread through area high schools. Even though students were already receiving information on regular HIV testing in Chico before the new law was passed, it is now being emphasized more than ever.
The high STD rates in the city are being blamed on a number of factors. While positive steps have been taken across the state, the fact remains that the infectious disease rates are still rising in the community. One reason is the lack of STI clinics in the area, recent budget cuts have forced many to close or operate on limited hours. This has resulted in long lines that no one wants to spend the day standing in.
Budget cuts to health care are also being blamed for the rising STD rates, especially among adults. Now that Medicaid no longer covers the simple and necessary procedure many residents are finding it difficult to afford the cost of regular testing. This is especially true in the city’s lower income neighborhoods, where rates are usually higher.
Older residents are staying healthy and sexually active longer and this is contributing to the high STD rates, especially since the majority of senior citizens have never received any sex education. The growing popularity of dating apps is making it easier for teens and adults to meet other people, and often it is only to engage in consensual sex. While there is nothing wrong with using apps to meet other people, the problem arises when they don’t use protection.
While the changes currently are made to the city’s sex education program is a positive first step, more needs to be done before the STD rates begin to decrease significantly.
Before you take a tour of the Bidwell Mansion or wander through the estate’s park it is important to take a few minutes to think about your sexual health. The number of sexually transmitted infections reported each year is rising, which makes it important for everyone to get tested regularly. It is understandable if you don’t want to wait in the long lines at one of the clinics, and now you don’t have to. You can easily schedule confidential STD testing with one simple phone call and only spend a few minutes at a local lab. This way you still have plenty of time to have fun at the National Yo-Yo Museum.