According to the Alaska Dispatch News, the overall rates of STD in AK continue to climb. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are particularly prevalent, and can have devastating effects. In Fairbanks, the rate of infection of most major STDs is significantly higher than the median rate across the country, according to the CDC’s statistics for 2012:
- HIV diagnosis for Fairbanks is 70.0 people per 100,000, below the US median rate of 105.5 per 100,000.
- Gonorrhea infection in Fairbanks is 86.7 per 100,000 people, more than double the US median of 30.5 cases per 100,000.
- The Chlamydia rate in Fairbanks is 597.8 per 100,000 people, slightly above the US average of 542.3 per 100,000.
- Syphilis infection in Fairbanks is also above the US median rate of 0.0, with Fairbanks rate of 1.0 case per 100,000 residents.
These statistics are consistent with the trends across Alaska as a whole. The overall rate of chlamydial infection in AK has begun a minor decline in the past 3 years thanks to increased awareness, education and testing. However, it’s still much higher than it was in 2001 and well above the national average.
The rate of gonorrhea in Fairbanks, AK is also alarmingly high compared with the national average. After seeing a small drop in 2012, the infection rate statewide has jumped to alarming rates in 2014-2015. These rates tend to fluctuate year by year, but the trend is troubling to local officials and health advocates.
Free STD testing and education resources are available in Fairbanks, though public school sex education programs have been a subject of debate over the past several years. In Fairbanks, the school district has battled back and forth over whether public schools could use the websites of non-profit organizations like Planned Parenthood as an educational resource. While advocates say that these large organizations can provide excellent educational resources, others have expressed concerned about the addition of potentially sensitive material to the curriculum without sufficient review.
Public schools in Alaska aren’t required by any specific state law to include sexual education in their curriculum. HB 156, which went into effect October 26, 2016, outlines guidelines for sex education in school curricula including requirements that parents be notified at least two weeks before any program and that parents be given the opportunity to withdraw their child from that specific program or activity. It also sets minimum requirements for teachers in sex ed programs, including required certifications.
The lack of consistent sex education programs in school districts across the state may be an important factor in AK’s alarming rates of STD. Many residents may be unaware that services exist for herpes testing, HIV testing, or other STDs or that they should be scheduling regular tests. They may also not have a full understanding of the ways in which STDs can be transmitted or prevented, or how often they should be tested.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is another educational resource on STD statistics, programs, and clinics in the state of Alaska. They provide direct assistance to affected individuals and do outreach education across the state. Additionally, they work behind the scenes to monitor potential outbreaks, direct assistance to health care providers, and provide training for health care providers on best practices for providing STD consultations, notifications, and referrals. There are even special programs for specific communities, like the Linkage to Care (L2C) program which connect HIV-positive individuals to medical care and other support resources.
Fairbanks is a growing city with a young population – 39.9% of households have children under the age of 18. With inconsistent sex education programs across the state, younger people are increasingly likely to contract STDs. The population of Fairbanks is 10% Native American, a demographic group that has seen skyrocketing rates of Chlamydia and other STDs in the past several years – and even outside of that population, AK has the highest rate of chlamydial infection in the nation as of 2013.
With 10,000 students, the University of Alaska Fairbanks makes up a large portion of the Fairbanks population. According to the CDC, almost half of the new STD infections each year occur in young people ages 15-24. College students need to be especially careful, as outbreaks can occur within close-knit college populations even more quickly than in the general public. Every college student should be aware of their own and their partner’s status, and should be tested regularly at a free STD clinic.
As a small city, Fairbanks has limited health care options available, with separate options for the university population and the general public. STD tests are critically important to keeping individuals and groups safe and healthy, but it can be difficult to find options in the Fairbanks area. The Fairbanks Public Health Center provides information on local clinics and health care options available in the region.
Confidential STD testing should be a regular part of everyone’s life. Not only does it protect your health, it also protects the health of the people you care most about. Catching an STD early can open up treatment options or cures that may not be available later, so it’s important to remember to get STD tests often.
The rates of STD infection in Alaska have risen in recent years, creating a public health crisis that’s endangering our population. Many people don’t know that there are options for fast, free, same day testing that make it easy to get your test, get your results, and get back to doing the things you love. That means the Golden Heart City can stay happy and healthy for generations to come.