Sexually transmitted diseases are a serious problem in the area, according to statistics recently released by the CDC. The unincorporated city and surrounding Hillsborough County have some of the highest STD rates in the state, and health officials do not see this changing anytime soon.
For the past twenty years the number of residents who test positive for a sexually transmitted disease has been steadily rising, and this includes HIV/AIDS and Syphilis. Primary and secondary Syphilis diagnoses are on the rise, especially among men in their late 20’s and 30’s. This is particularly alarming since most health professionals presumed that this STD was under control.
Statistics also show that it is not just teens and young adults who are testing positive for a STD more often, but older residents are also contracting the sexually transmitted viruses as well. With rates rising among teens and adults it has never been so important to include regular STD testing as part of a routine health plan.
Some of the statistics that indicate how serious the STD problem has become include,
- In 2012 alone the number of reported cases of Chlamydia more than doubled to 7,100 in the county.
- Hillsborough County accounted for the majority of the increase in Gonorrhea rates in 2012 with over 500 more residents testing positive compared to 2003.
- An estimated 70 percent of the STDs reported in 2012 occurred in young adults in their 20’s.
With the 16th highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the state and a rising number of teens and adults testing positive for the other common STDs each year, some state officials are starting to question if the lack of a sexual education program is really helping students protect themselves.
Like many other states, Florida and Citrus Park only use the federally approved and funded “abstinence only” programs in the public schools, and some law makers are finally realizing that this might not be enough to prevent students and other residents from contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
Without comprehensive and medically accurate information, most students do not realize that they can still contract a STD even if they are not engaging in sexual activity. Not all sexually transmitted diseases are spread strictly through intercourse and penetration, and more importantly not every STD displays immediate signs and symptoms. Some venereal diseases can take several months before any symptoms appear, and by this time chances are other people have been infected without even realizing it.
The only effective way to prevent the spread of STDs and finally get the diseases under control is to educate residents about the dangers they face. With regular Herpes testing in Citrus Park the virus can eventually be stopped in area high schools where it is most prevalent. Regular HIV testing in Citrus Park is also crucial for continued good health, especially since the procedure is the only way to check for the potentially deadly disease.
Located next to Tampa and close to some of the top tourists beaches in the state, these are only some of the demographical factors that are effecting the area’s STD rate.
While the constant stream of tourists to the beaches and residents taking frequent trips into the city is contributing to the rising rate of infections, the main factor remains the lack of education and information available to teens and residents. Without the information needed to stay safe, many residents do not even realize they are at risk.
Studies have shown conclusively that comprehensive sexual education programs are the best way to stop the spread of STDs, and teach residents how to protect themselves. Until new bills are introduced requiring all public schools to take these proactive steps the area can expect to see its STD rates continue to rise.
Recent budget cuts to neighborhood clinics and health care facilities are also causing STD rates to soar. Many lower income families simply cannot afford regular testing, and the lack of public health care facilities makes it difficult to even find a place to be screened. Misconceptions regarding STDs and how the diseases are spread, along with a blatant disregard for others health is also contributing to the ongoing problem.
Language barriers in the Hispanic community, along with feelings of shame and embarrassment at being seen standing in line for STD testing are all issues that need to be addressed before the area sees the disease rates start to decrease.
While it is easy to forget about high STD rates in the warm Florida sun, if you value your health and that of others you will remember to get tested regularly. If you don’t want to stand in the long lines that are common at the community health centers you can still get tested without having to wait for hours. Simply make one quick and easy phone call and schedule confidential STD testing. You only need to spend a few minutes at the local lab instead of the entire day at the community center. It is fast, easy, and will give you peace of mind knowing that you have taken responsibility for your own sexual health.