Statistics in the state are compiled by county. The city is located in Duval County and their most recent data indicates that two common bacterial infections, chlamydia and gonorrhea as well as the viral infection HIV, are all more common in this region than Nationwide. This is alarming to both residents and local health authorities.
Chlamydia infections are well above both the state and country averages. the rates for Gonorrhea and HIV are both almost twice the National rate. Duval County’s HIV rates are actually the 3rd highest in the nation, according to statistics.
According to Health Department Records:
- 2,574 people are living with HIV in Duval County
- 3,348 are living with AIDS
- Men account for 76 percent of new infections
- 35 percent of cases came from heterosexual contact
- Florida has the highest rate of new infections of all States
- A significant number of HIV/AIDS patients are between the ages of 30 and 39
Sexual health advocates in the Duval County are making great effort to dispel common myths about STDs such as:
- I’ve only had one partner so I don’t need to get tested.
- You can tell if someone has an STD by looking at them.
- I don’t have symptoms so I don’t need to get tested.
- If I need to be tested my doctor would automatically tell me.
The Florida Department of Health has also implemented health hotlines and free clinical services for Duval County residents recently. Getting tested regularly is key to a clean bill of health as well as your peace of mind, and never before has it been as easy or convenient.
Duval County educators are attempting to help stop the spread of STDs by creating teen health centers. In collaboration with the CDC through a DASH grant, these programs focus on evidence-based curriculum and teach about the risks of HIV and STD transmission. All services provided at the teen health centers are free and immediately available including testing, counselling and follow up.
Unfortunately the sunshine state has long taught abstinence-only-until-marriage programs which are keeping area youth in the dark about STDs. Instead of acknowledging that today’s teens are engaging in a certain level of sexual behavior, educators are turning a blind eye and avoiding the conversation entirely. Several studies have evaluated the effectiveness of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and, so far, no evidence has been found that these programs reduce either the rates of premarital sex or STDs.
Interestingly the statistics for HIV show, not surprisingly, that male to male transmission through sexual contact is the most frequent way of contracting HIV in the city, and that heterosexual sex is the second most frequent method of infection. This might indicate that basic safe sex practices are not being used in the region.
While the demographics of the area reflect fewer ethnic populations than some parts of the country, we currently see 64% Caucasian, 21% black, 6.9% Latino, and the balance being mixed race or American Indian. The infection rate for many STDs is higher in black males and especially in a subset to this demographic who engage in homosexual sex.
The rate of black females living with an HIV diagnosis in the region is 14 times higher than that of Caucasian females. It is also notable that in our region most of these diseases are being transmitted sexually and not through blood transfusion or injection drug use. That’s good news as education about healthy preventative methods is more easily implemented to this demographic than it would be to substance abusers, homeless and other at-risk groups.
These statistics leave experts wondering if new apps, like Tinder, that encourage hookups and anonymous sex are contributing to the increase in diagnosis. Using social media to arrange casual sexual encounters is definitely a high-risk behavior that the normally low-risk population are engaging in. The twenty-somethings don’t remember the fear of AIDS that scared everyone to engage in safer sex. People now see HIV as a chronic disease rather than a life threatening illness or death sentence. The good news is the CDC has contributed a $34 million grant to implement high-impact HIV prevention for Florida’s communities.
The good news for residents and visitors alike, is there are now more than 10 STD clinics located in the area. They range from free and anonymous test centers to full-service high-end clinics. Testing can be scheduled online and take as little as 15 minutes out of your day.
The city boasts a friendly and laid-back vibe. This doesn’t mean you should sit back and ignore your sexual health needs. Located around the community there are confidential test sites that have qualified, discrete personnel who share your goal of staying keeping you healthy. Taking time to prioritize your health will give you confidence and security whatever your current relationship status might be.
Getting this beachside city past this current STD crisis means getting testing, getting treatment and getting advice and support. There are a number of local companies offering same-day STD testing. As well there is always the option of mail-order companies who offer results from home swabs you take yourself with confidentially quick results.