In most cities, STD statistics for major infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are maintained on a county wide basis. The city’s sexual health data is included in the statistics for Orange County.
In Orange County the numbers of reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and early syphilis show spikes across the population aged 20-29 as well as an increased incidence in the black, Latino and Native American populations. Rates of these three sexually transmitted diseases have been steadily increasing in the state since 2010, while national rates remained constant or even fell.
The most recent data for the city shows these increases from 2011 to 2016:
- 412% percent increase in syphilis cases
- 204% percent increase in gonorrhea
- 59% percent increase in chlamydia
Since reporting began in 1981 am estimated 12,328 people have been identified as infected with HIV disease while living in Orange County. Of these:
- 300 were newly diagnosed with HIV disease in 2015.
- 66 were concurrently diagnosed with AIDS indicating that they individual was living with HIV disease but unaware of their status for a significant amount of time.
Of concern is the statistic that youth between the age of 15 and 18 years have a significant level of infection. The numbers in this demographic show an 8.2 % increase since 1997. It is hypothesized that a decrease in condom us is in part to blame for this rise.
According to experts in the region, the rising rate of STDs represents a lack of accessible testing and diagnosis as well as lack of education. The schools are trying to teach abstinence when the students are already sexually active and despite getting information at school about condom use and refusing sexual contact, sexual health is getting worse instead of improving.
One factor in the decrease in HIV testing is that no one sees AIDs as life threatening anymore. In the 80s and the 90s Californians were seeing people getting really ill and dying from AIDS but advances in treatment and control of HIV have taken some of the urgency out of getting diagnosis and treatment.
Herpes diagnosis can be quite simple however the stigma around getting a swab keeps people away from testing sites. Educators are working to open a dialogue about sex that allows removes stigma and discomfort from the topic.
The good news around this increase in diagnosis is a call to action for simpler methods of testing, diagnosis, and treatment. There has even been discussion of the city piloting a “swab at home” testing program.
The demographic in the area averages 6% younger than the rest of California. It is also a predominantly Caucasian population. This might partially explain why the stats here are higher than other CA regions. The mob mentality that allows youth to believe that they are invincible, coupled with the brain development for decision making which really doesn’t fully form until the mid-twenties means adults need to take a role in protecting the sexual health of the younger members of the community.
STD testing centers in the city include fully private clinics that boast 15 minute testing with results within 48 hour Other clinics advertise same-day results or walk-in, no-wait. There is also free or low-cost testing for those who don’t have medical insurance. Different centers offer different levels of processing speed. There are clinicians who will come to your home for a flexible and convenient private testing and there are also 100% anonymous testing options where not even a name is required.
Sex education remains a contentious issue in the area after the California Board of Education implemented health education guidelines in 2008 that include education on sexuality and sexual intercourse alongside other personal health issues. Removing the ‘abstinence only’ sex education in an effort to ensure all children are aware of the risks associated with unprotected sex is a good start to improving sexual health in the region.
Like many communities in the golden state, Costa Mesa struggles to balance the financial burden of sexual education with the increased cost of health care in a population that remains sexually naive. Offering STD testing to the community is expensive but ultimately it will reduce the cost of treatment down the line.
The good news is that the community is expanding outreach and education efforts in hopes of teaching better options when it comes to safe sex and hassle-free testing. The message being delivered is that getting tested carries no stigma, in fact it means you’re taking charge of your own health.
Statistics show that key populations include youth and people of color who are the most vulnerable segments of the demographic where sexual education and accessibility are concerned. There has been an increase in public clinics as well as specialized private clinics who offer STD testing options in convenient locations throughout the city.
Removing the stigma around talking about sexuality and sexual health is one of the first steps in encouraging early and frequent testing, which is the key to overall sexual health. When partners are open to these conversations, and they include medical experts in their healthcare, improvement is bound to occur.