The CDC and Passaic County Health Department recently released statistics highlighting the rising STD rates in the city. Over the last twenty years the number of sexually transmitted diseases reported annually has been steadily rising and this has local and state health officials worried.
In 2014 the rates for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis and HIV surpassed state averages, and these numbers have continued to rise over the last two years. The statistics are also showing an alarming trend regarding HIV and Syphilis rates. The rates for these two sexually transmitted diseases are significantly higher in men over the age of 25 than for any other demographic.
Teens and young adults ages 18 to 24 account for the majority of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea cases reported in the county, and the rates are particularly high in women. Young females have the greatest risk for contracting Chlamydia, and it is only slightly less for Gonorrhea. Surprisingly men ages 18 to 24 are at the highest risk for contracting Gonorrhea. It should also be noted that young men are also testing positive for HPV more frequently over the last three years.
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 males.
Some of the other statistics that highlight the growing STD problem and the importance of regular testing include,
- In 2014 the Chlamydia rate for the county was 423.7 per 100,000 residents, compared to the 309.2 reported by the state.
- 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.
This means that the information 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 that could provide them with the information they need to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. Students also do not learn how important regular HIV testing in Clifton is, especially now that the infection rates are rising. The same is also true regarding regular Herpes testing in Clifton, even though it is the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.
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.
Before you take a tour of the city’s sewer system, better known as the “Gates of Hell” it is important to take a few minutes to take care of your sexual health. It is understandable if you don’t want to spend hours looking for an open STI clinic only to wait in a long line, and now there is a faster and easier way to get tested. With one simple phone call you can schedule confidential STD testing and only spend a few minutes at a nearby lab. This way you still have time to visit the historic Vreeland House.