With the release of statistics compiled by the CDC and Kern County Health Department it has become impossible for residents to ignore the rising STD rates.
From 2012 to 2014 the congenital Syphilis rate alone climbed a frightening 340 percent. The statistics also show that this is not the only sexually transmitted disease on the rise. Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and HIV incidents are increasing, and have been for the past twenty years.
Health officials have noted that not only are the number of STDs reported annually increasing, but sometimes at an astonishing rate. While they are not calling it a crisis, it is being referred to as a “very difficult issue”.
Part of this is due to the fact that the infection rates for many of the commonly transmitted sexual disease are increasing across all demographics.
Teens and young adults account for the majority of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea cases. Women are at a greater risk for contracting Chlamydia, while an overwhelming number of Gonorrhea incidents are occurring in men. Guys over the age of 25 are also testing positive more often for primary and secondary Syphilis. Unfortunately this demographic is also experiencing an increase in the number of new HIV cases reported each year.
Some of the other statistics that highlight the growing STD problem in the county include,
- African American men account for the majority of Gonorrhea incidents with a rate of 611 per 100,000.
- From 2010 to 2014 the HIV incident rate rose 23 percent.
- Hispanic men have the highest incident rate for primary and secondary Syphilis at a rate of 27 per 100,000.
In response to the rapidly rising STD and teen pregnancy rates the state has made it mandatory that all public schools provide comprehensive sex education. The material used must also be medically accurate and free from religious bias.
This means that abstinence based materials will no longer be permitted, and this does have some people upset.
There are several groups that still believe that encouraging abstinence is the best way to prevent STDs and unplanned pregnancies, even though the statistics show this to be ineffective. School districts that promoted abstinence actually had some of the highest rates in the state.
At the start of the 2016 school year some districts were already in compliance with the new mandated curriculum, but this does not include the county and small township. Due to lack of funding and available material, most high school students aren’t receiving the information they need to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.
Information on where to buy condoms is not discussed, and a large number of graduating seniors aren’t even sure how to properly use one. The importance of being checked for all of the STDs is also not covered, and this is putting everyone’s sexual health at risk.
If all high school students and their parents understood how important regular Herpes testing in East Kern is, the infection rate would begin to decrease. The good news is that the importance of regular HIV testing in East Kern is covered in the current sex education program. Unfortunately, judging by the high incident rate very few residents are taking this advice seriously.
STD rates are rising across the county and there are several factors contributing to this growing health problem.
Its small population has limited the number of community STI clinics and this means that residents often don’t have a convenient place to go if there is a problem with their sexual health.
Recent budget cuts to health care programs across the state are also contributing to the lack of community testing centers. Due to lack of funding some health clinics have been forced to close, while others can only afford limited hours of operation. Not only does this make it difficult for residents to find a place to get tested, the long lines are causing many people to turn away in frustration. Adding to the problem is the fact that STD testing is no longer covered under Medicaid, and a large percentage of residents are realizing that they simply can’t afford to take care of their sexual health.
The main contributing factor is the lack of comprehensive sex education. With a large number of graduating students admitting to engaging in sexual activity at least once, it is obvious that abstinence based material is no longer effective. As long as teens do not have access to the information they need to protect themselves, the STD rates will keep increasing.
The scenic beauty of the county and small township makes it easy to forget that the area is currently seeing a stunning increase in its STD rates. With the incident rate rising across all demographics, it is important that everyone take a few minutes to get tested. It is understandable if you don’t wait to spend all day waiting in a long line, and now you can avoid the community testing centers. Now you can easily schedule confidential STD testing with one simple phone call and only spend 15 to 20 minutes at a local lab. This way you still have plenty of time to explore this fascinating area.