City officials can no longer ignore the high STD rate in the area after the CDC and Oklahoma State Health Department released the latest statistics.
Over the last twenty years the number of sexually transmitted diseases has been steadily rising, and now this rural community has some of the highest rates in the state. According to a recently published list in SFGATE the county has the dubious distinction of being ranked 23rd in the nation for its high Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates. These numbers are only expected to continue to rise due to the lack of STI clinics and residents’ inability to get easily tested.
It is not only Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates rising, but Syphilis and HIV incidents are up as well. In 2009 the Syphilis rate for the state was reported at 2.6 per 100,000 residents, compared to the county at 3.2 in 2012. The Chlamydia rate in 2012 was even higher at 779.7 per 100,000 residents, and the majority of these diagnoses occurred in women ages 18 to 24.
While the statistics show that teens and young adults are typically those with the highest risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease, this is changing. In recent years the number of older men who test positive for primary and secondary Syphilis has been steadily increasing, and the same is also true for HIV.
Even newspapers are now publishing statistics detailing the city and county’s growing problem with rising STD rates.
Some of the statistics making headlines include,
- The city and county reported a Chlamydia rate of 776,000 per 100,000 residents in 2015.
- In 2015 the Gonorrhea rate for the county was reported at 214,000 per 100,000 residents, and was one of the highest in the state.
- The Syphilis rate rose to 3.2 in 2012 compared to the state’s at 2.6.
In 2016 a bill went before the Oklahoma House of Representatives. This bill does not deal with the public schools lack of sex education, but with abortion instead. If the bill passes the House and Senate students could graduate from high school knowing next to nothing about STDs, but be well aware the state law considers abortion “the termination of another separate and unique human being”.
With STD rates rising in the city and across the state one would think that officials would be concerned about residents’ health. Unfortunately they are relying on outdated abstinence based programs which do little to teach teens how to protect themselves from any sexually transmitted diseases. With polls showing that students are sexually active at a younger age and teen pregnancy rates rising, it seems clear that law makers are not focusing on the problem.
Most students do not realize how important regular HIV testing in Lawton is, especially now that the number of cases is rising each year. Regular Herpes testing in Lawton is also not discussed in the public schools, even though the virus is increasing in frequency. Until state law makers realize how important it is for students and adults to have the information they need to protect themselves the number of STDs reported each year will continue to rise.
There are several reasons why the number of sexually transmitted infections reported each year continues to rise, but the main one is the simple lack of available information.
It is not uncommon for students to graduate never knowing how STDs are spread or that there are steps they can take to protect themselves. Most students do not understand how important it is to always use a condom, and some aren’t even sure how to put one on. Since the importance of regular testing is also not discussed, most teens and young adults have never been checked for a STD.
The city’s rural location is also contributing to the problem. Its smaller population means less funding from the state, and this is making it difficult for many of the city’s lower income residents to afford regular testing. There have also been budget cuts to many of the clinics in the area, due to the anti-abortion push.
With fewer clinics open to serve residents many are finding it impossible to get tested, even once a year.
Other factors that are causing the STD rates to soar include the conservative beliefs shared by many residents. Abstinence until marriage is strongly encouraged, and this can make it difficult for teens and young adults to find someone to talk to if there is a problem or question about their sexual health.
Until lawmakers and residents acknowledge that STDs are a serious problem in the city, the rates will continue to rise putting everyone at risk.
Before you start exploring the wide open spaces around the city or tour one of the small colleges it is important to take a few minutes to take care of your sexual health. If you can’t find a STD clinic near you or don’t want to spend the entire day waiting in line, there is a faster and more convenient option. With one simple phone call you can schedule confidential STD testing and only spend a few minutes at a nearby lab. This way you can take care of your sexual health, and still have plenty of time left to enjoy a day in the city.