Statistics recently released by the CDC and St Louis County Health Department show that STDs are on the rise in the city, and have been for the last twenty years. In 2012 the statistics indicated that Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates were at all-time highs, and these numbers have continued to rise in the last two to three years.
Teens and young adults account for the majority of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea infections, and women ages 18 to 24 are among those with the highest risk. The statistics also show that the number of men that test positive for Gonorrhea is rising, and is only one percent lower than that for females. Health officials predict that in the next couple of years the Gonorrhea rate in men will have surpassed that for women.
When it comes to HIV infections the city and county have the third highest rate in the state. While some counties reported no new cases in 2013, the number of infections jumped significantly in the area. Men ages 20 to 24 are among those with the highest risk, but this does not mean that they are the only ones testing positive.
Primary and Secondary Syphilis incidents are also on the rise and men over the age of 25 accounts for the majority of new cases reported in the area. As the rates for Syphilis, HIV and the other commonly transmitted STDs continues to rise it becomes even more important for residents to get tested. Some of the other statistics that highlight the growing STD problem include,
- In 2013 the Chlamydia rate for the county was reported at 375.0 per 100,000 residents.
- There were 741 cases of Chlamydia reported in 2015 for a rate of 370.
- 2015 saw 92 new cases of Gonorrhea reported in the city and county.
Currently the state does not require its public schools districts to offer sex education, and this is putting students’ health at risk. While districts are required to provide students with information on HIV and other STDs when and how this information is provided is left up to the individual schools. Recently a coalition of health and educational groups put together a recommended curriculum for school districts but they are not required to use it.
This means that the majority of students are not receiving the information they need to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. Since studies show that teens are engaging in sexual activity at least once before graduation, knowing how to prevent contracting and spreading STDs is vital for everyone’s continued good health.
The proposed new curriculum would include information on contraceptives, including the proper use of condoms. Medically accurate information on how all STDs can be spread would also be discussed. Most importantly teens would learn that regular HIV testing in Duluth is critical and that the simple procedure is currently the only way to positively detect the potentially deadly disease. Regular Herpes testing in Duluth would also be addressed in hopes that this will stop the spread of the contagious virus.
There are several factors that are contributing to the high STD rate in the city that include lack of funding for health care programs and not enough information on how sexually transmitted diseases can be spread. Budget cuts to the county’s health care system has forced many STI clinics to close their doors, and is making it difficult for residents to afford regular testing since it is no longer covered by Medicaid.
The lack of sex education in the public schools is leaving students unprepared to deal with the risks and responsibilities associated with being sexually active, and this includes understanding why it is so important to be tested for all STDs on a regular basis. The lack of comprehensive sex education is being blamed for the 7 percent increase in Chlamydia cases that occurred between 2014 and 2015.
Since teens and some adults do not fully realize that STDs can be spread without sexual activity many residents simply do not believe that they are at risk for contracting one of these infectious diseases. This is making it easier for these diseases to be spread, often without anyone realizing it until it is too late. Adding to the confusion is the fact that not all STDs display immediate signs and symptoms and the majority of the city’s residents believe they only need to be tested if they know that there is a problem.
Until these and other contributing factors are resolved the city can expect to see its STD rates continue to rise.
Before you take a ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad or visit one of the city’s other fascinating museums it is important to take a few minutes to think about your sexual health. The number of STDs reported annually is rising and this means that everyone should be tested on a regular basis. It is understandable if you don’t want to spend hours waiting in long lines at the community STI clinics and now there is a faster and easier way to get tested. Simply by making one quick phone call you can schedule confidential STD testing and only spend a few minutes at a local lab. This way you still have plenty of time to explore this historic city.