Statistics recently released by the CDC and Sebastian County Health Department show an alarming trend in the historic city’s STD rates. The number of sexually transmitted diseases reported each year keeps rising, and has been for the past twenty years.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates are rising, along with those for Herpes and HPV. The county was ranked in the top twenty out of 75 for its high STD rates, and this includes Syphilis and HIV. Currently the HIV rate for the county is slight above state averages.
While the statistics show that teens and young adults are among those with the highest risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease, older residents are also testing positive more often. The majority of primary and secondary Syphilis diagnoses occurred in adults over the age of 24, and this is also true regarding HIV/AIDS.
The statistics also show an alarming trend that is occurring in older adults, particularly in men. Males over the age of 25 account for the majority of new HIV cases reported each year, and many of these same men are also testing positive for Syphilis or Gonorrhea. While this trend does not appear to be occurring in women, health officials are worried that this might show change unless everyone realizes how important regular STD testing is for their sexual health.
Some of the other statistics that highlight the growing STD problem in the city include,
- In 2014 the Chlamydia rate for the county was reported at 431.9 per 100,000, which is slightly below nation averages of 456.7.
- The Gonorrhea rate in 2014 was 91.2 with the majority of cases occurring in young men.
- The HIV rate in 2014 was 195.4, compared to the states at 194.6.
Even though the state ranks among the top ten in the nation for its high STD and teen pregnancy rates it still does not require its public schools to provide students with the information they need to protect their sexual health. This means that the majority of students still do not understand the risks and responsibilities that come with being sexually active.
If the public schools do offer sex education classes they are abstinence based. It is not uncommon for the programs to provide students with information that is not medically accurate, and in some cases blatantly false. Students are often taught that condoms are not effective at preventing unplanned pregnancies and STDs, and that abstinence is the only proven method. Studies have not only shown conclusively that this information is false, but also that simply abstaining from all types of sexual activity will not prevent the spread of STDs.
These programs also use “shaming” techniques to stress the value of abstinence, and this has been shown to be just as detrimental to students as it is to provide them without any information. Since teens do not receive information on the importance of regular HIV testing in Fort Smith most don’t realize that the simple procedure is the only way to detect the potentially deadly disease. They also do not learn that regular Herpes testing in Fort Smith is the best way to prevent the contagious virus from continuing to spread through area high schools.
While there are several reasons why the STD rates are rising in the city, the main one remains the lack of comprehensive and medically accurate sex education programs. Students simply do not have the information they need to protect their sexual health, and this can affect them for the rest of their lives. Some STDs can be effectively treated, while others like HIV can simply be managed.
Since teens and young adults are not familiar with many of the signs and symptoms associated with STDs, a large majority never realize that they have been infected until they have passed the disease onto others. Many simply think that they have a cold or the flu, and this is being blamed for the spike in Gonorrhea and Syphilis incidents.
The city also has strong religious and conservative beliefs that make it difficult for anyone to talk about any potential problems they may be facing regarding their sexual health. “Shaming” is a tactic that is commonly employed in sex education classes, making it difficult for teens and adults to admit that they might be infected. Since the majority of residents do not realize that STDs can be spread through various methods, most simply do not see the importance of regular testing.
Until these and other problems are resolved the city can expect to see its STD rates continue to rise.
Before you decide to spend the day shopping in the historic downtown district or tour one of the nearby college campuses, it is important to take a few minutes to think about your sexual health. It is understandable if you7 don’t want to wait in a long line at a community STI clinic, and now there is a faster and easier way to get tested. With one simply phone call you can schedule confidential STD testing and only spend a few minutes at a conveniently located lab. This way you can take care of your sexual health and still have plenty of time to explore this historic southern city.