STD infection rates in Georgia are compiled by county. Lawrenceville is located in the Gwinnett County region for statistical purposes. According to the CDC rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are below the national rate but syphilis cases in the region had a high rate of 19 per 100,000 people which is more than twice the national rate of infection. This trend is alarming.
Infection rates recently reported include:
- Chlamydia had a county rate of 368 infections per 100,000 people.
- Early syphilis and primary and secondary syphilis combined average at 4 per 100,000.
- Gonorrhea rates were 75 cases per 100,000.
- HIV infection currently sits at 195 per 100,000.
- TB rates are higher than national. In a 1 year period 29 new cases were reported. Our rate is the second highest in the state.
Higher than national local HIV rates are making the news in 2016, and this includes the suburban community. The population most affected was African-American men who have sex with other men but the total number of infected people in the area continues to cause local health authorities to focus on educating the population about the importance of prevention and early diagnosis. Although a diagnosis is no longer seen as a death sentence, HIV is still a threat to long-term health and lifestyle.
Free condoms are available at many health clinics and outreach programs encourage testing, It is hypothesized that the actual rate of infection is even higher as many in the region do not have the resources for testing. New money to promote sexual health will hopefully increase the number of outreach centers available.
Herpes rates in the region appear similar to the national rates of infection.
Unfortunately for residents, part of the issue might be that Georgia schools are failing to make the grade on teaching recommended sexual education topics. Basic disease prevention, like condom usage, isn’t being consistently taught across our city.
With Georgia ranking fourth in the nation for syphilis infection and ninth for chlamydia as well as fourth for HIV and 13th for teen pregnancies, it’s clear we are doing an inadequate job of preparing our children for a healthy sexual future. State law mandates that sexual and HIV education emphasizes abstinence-until-marriage. This means our children are not getting a comprehensive knowledge and the skills required to avoid STD infection and pregnancies.
The CDC warns that lack of effective sex education can have very real and very serious health consequences. Another alarming factor is that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are at a disproportionate risk for HIV and other STDs in the community. They also experience higher rates of harassment, dating violence, and sexual violence. The students, as well as the general population, would benefit from inclusive comprehensive sexual education.
Attitudes are sexuality need rapid change in order to help keep locals healthy. Sexual health needs to become a public topic rather than a hidden secret if our city wants to change the trend in sexual health from reactive to proactive.
According to recent census information, Lawrenceville has a population of just above 30,000 citizens split very equally between male and female.
- 48% of the population are white
- 32% are African-American
- 22% are Latino or Hispanic
81% of the population has graduated from high school but only 21% have a bachelor’s degree. The median household income is $41,000 annually and 25% of locals are living in poverty. This means that the city runs high risk for STDs since these poverty levels would indicate inadequate health-care for 1/4 of the population.
In our region race seems to matter when looking at HIV rates. Black people are affected much more often than Caucasians and other demographics. And maps that indicate poverty levels and infection levels look remarkably similar.
What health professionals know are at-risk populations need regular education as well as access to testing and treatment to improve STD stats. Fortunately for local residents there are new options to help take care of this old problem- affordable and accessible health-care.
Residents love our mild winters, our cool, historic downtown, sipping sweet tea on the porch and our small town vibe close to the big city. What we need to work on is keeping our town healthy. Given our poverty rates, our demographics and the way we are currently educating our citizens, there is a danger that our sexually transmitted diseases will continue to spread unless we start taking control of our own sexual health. This begins with the regular testing.
Currently there are multiple centers available where you can have same-day walk-in testing or specific appointment testing in a more private facility. There’s also the option to order tests on-line and submit them by mail for an entirely private and anonymous testing. Students, low-income families and at-risk populations can access free health services provided by the county. Together we can put the peace-of-mind back in sexual health. Taking the stigma out of the conversation about STDs and normalizing sexual health-care helps our entire community.