Located in the second wealthiest county in the United States many residents of Columbia believe that sexually transmitted diseases are a problem that does not affect them. According to Howard County and CDC statistics this is simply not the case and the residents of this affluent community are actually at a high risk for contracting any of the commonly transmitted infections.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates are rising in teens and young adults, especially in the last three years. While these rates are still below state averages, health officials are worried that this might not last if residents do not start getting tested for STIs on a regular basis.
The statistics also indicate an alarming trend in the area’s Syphilis and HIV rates, which have been steadily rising for over twenty years. Primary and secondary Syphilis incidents are ranked on a sliding graph as “worse” than other counties, which is surprising to many residents give the affluent status of the county.
Syphilis diagnoses are also occurring more frequently in older male residents, and the same is also true for HIV. In 2015 there were 400 cases of HIV reported in the county and this should be enough to convince residents of the importance of regular visits to a STI clinic.
Some of the other statistics that indicate the growing STD problem in the city and county include,
- In 2011 the HIV prevalence rate was listed at 163 per 100,000 residents, compared to 169 in 2015.
- The Syphilis rate for the county is 2.4 per 100,000 residents which are considered “worse” according to the government.
When it comes to sex education in Maryland each county is responsible for designing and implementing its own program. The only guidelines counties need to follow are that these education classes must include information on all STDs, along with how having sex can effect and change students’ lives. The programs should also reflect the views and beliefs of the county, and in Howard this means that the sex education program promotes abstinence.
Parents are also allowed to opt their children out of the program if they feel the information is inappropriate. Parental permission is also required for students to participate in the classes.
While this may seem like the best way for all students to receive some information about the spread of STDs, in reality it has only created a lot of confusion. The affluent community of Columbia mistakenly believes that sexually transmitted diseases are not a problem for their students, and that the only information they need in their classes pertains to the benefits of abstinence. Even though abstinence can and does prevent unplanned pregnancies, it does little to stop the spread of all of the STDs.
It is also not uncommon for parents to decide that their children are better off not learning about the responsibilities associated with being sexually active, and this means that the majority will never learn about the importance of regular STI testing.
Regular Herpes testing in Columbia is especially important for high school students, since they present the highest risk for infection. Regular HIV testing in Columbia is vital for everyone’s safety, and the simple procedure is also the only sure method currently available to accurately detect the virus.
Since the city is actually comprised of 10 planned communities the demographics are a little different in Columbia. It is considered one of the wealthiest communities in the country, and this also includes the surrounding county. Unlike some areas where lack of income plays a role in the high STD rate, this is not a problem in the community.
Instead many residents simply believe that a STD will never affect them, and that these viruses are problems in other communities. Considering the high STD rate in the area, it should be clear to residents that this is not the case. As long as they believe that they are safe from all STDs and do not get tested on a regular basis the disease rates will continue to rise.
The lack of information in the public schools’ sex education programs are also contributing to the growing problem, along with the fact that many students choose not to participate in the classes. Without the information they need to protect themselves, teens and young adults will continue to be among those with the highest risk of infection.
One surprising reason for the city’s high STD rate is the growing problem with illicit drugs among older residents. This is also being blamed for the increase in Syphilis diagnoses, and it is quickly becoming another problem that city leaders need to address. Until these problems are resolved and sex education improves, residents can expect to see the city’s STD rates continue to climb.
Before you head out for a day of fishing or even shopping it is important to take a few minutes to think about your sexual health since STD rates are rising across the city. Columbia does have a few STI clinics that residents can take advantage of, but the long lines are forcing many people to put off this important test. Now you can easily schedule confidential STD testing with one phone call and only spend a few minutes at a local lab. This way you can get tested and still enjoy your day in this fascinating community.