While the majority of health officials expected high STD rates in teens and young adults, they were not prepared for the large increase in older residents. African American men account for the majority of new HIV and Syphilis cases, followed closely by Caucasian and Hispanic
- The HIV rate for the county in 2014 was 632.2 per 100,000 people, compared to the state’s average of 488.2.
- The state reported a Gonorrhea rate of 84.9 in 2014, compared to the county’s of 110.0 per 100,000 residents.
In an effort to slow down and eventually stop the spread of STDs the state actually requires all public schools to provide 150 hours of age appropriate sex and health education to students before graduation. These classes will cover topics that range from puberty, emotions, dating and preventive measures regarding HIV and other STDs, and while this sounds like a positive step the information is often taught from a pro abstinence point of view.
Students are receiving may not always be medically accurate or even pertinent to their lives. With more students admitting to engaging in sexual activity at least once before graduation and the teen pregnancy rate rising, it is obvious that simply telling students that having intercourse before marriage is “bad” is not enough to make them practice abstinence.
Students are frequently made to feel ashamed and embarrassed in sex education classes where abstinence is taught. This can make them unwilling to ask questions.
Health officials can cite several reasons that the STD rates are rising in the city. It does share a border with New York and this state’s higher STD rates are occasionally reflected in the county’s health statistics. While this does account for a small percentage of cases, the fact remains that more of the city’s residents are testing positive for STDs each year.
The lack of a standard sex education curriculum is one of the reasons STDs are rising in teens and young adults. Today’s social culture promotes sexuality, and students are seeing no reason to wait until marriage before engaging in sexual activity. Since they don’t realize how easy it is to spread STDs or the importance of using protection most don’t know that they are putting their health at risk.
What is being blamed for the largest increase in STD rates, especially in the county where statistics show they have rose by 70 percent is the $7.5 million in budget cuts to women’s health care. The cuts in funding have forced many health care clinics to close and this has left many residents with no place to go to get tested. There have also been cuts to Medicaid and it no longer covers regular STD testing. This means that many of the city’s lower income residents cannot afford the out of pocket cost.
Until these and other issues are resolved the city can expect to see its STD rates continue to rise.
Touring the city’s sewer system, better known as the “Gates of Hell” can be informative if you’re brave enough. What won’t take a lot of courage is contacting a private STI lab for a test. Since it is private you can be anonymous. Results are delivered quickly, before closing time at the Vreeland House.