Recently the CDC and Lee County Health Department released the latest statistics detailing the area’s STD rates. The statistics show that the number of cases of Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and infectious Syphilis reported each year are rising, and have tripled in the last two decades. While part of this is due to a population boom in the early 2000’s, the recent statistics still indicate that there is a problem with STDs in the suburb.
Currently the county’s STD rates are below state averages, but health officials are worried that this will soon change. In 2015 the STD rate was reported at 421.6 per 100,000 residents, compared to the state’s at 555.0. The most common sexually transmitted disease reported in the area is Chlamydia followed closely by HIV. Surprisingly, considering the high HIV/AIDS rate, the number of Syphilis cases reported in the county each year is significantly below state averages.
While teens and young adults are among those with the greatest risk for contracting Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Herpes, residents over the age of 40 are more likely to contract HIV and Syphilis. This is somewhat surprising to health officials considering the large number of retirees that call this coastal community home.
Some of the other statistics that highlight the growing STD problem in the area, along with the need for regular testing include,
- In 2013 the suburb and Ft. Myers metro area ranked 16th in the nation for its high STD, even though a large majority of the population are retirees.
- From 1994 to 2015 the Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and infectious Syphilis rates more than tripled.
- As of 2015 there were 8,396 incidents of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and infectious Syphilis reported in the county.
A 2008 United Nations report found teens that have completed a comprehensive sex education program are more likely to wait to have intercourse, and use a condom the first time that they do. The U.N. study also found that these teens and young adults were more confident, and better able to communicate their thoughts, concerns and feelings. Even though the report shows that there are several benefits to providing teens with comprehensive sex education programs, and STD rates are rising, the state still does not feel that these classes are necessary for their students.
While the public school districts do provide scientifically proven information on HIV/AIDS and other STDs, this is not enough to slow down the spread of these infectious diseases. This is especially evident given the area’s high HIV infection rate.
It is not uncommon for students to graduate not understanding the risks and responsibilities that come with being sexually active, especially since the majority of information received in school is abstinence based. This also means that teens and even some adults do not understand how important regular HIV testing is in Lehigh Acres, or that the simple procedure could potentially save their lives. Regular Herpes testing in Lehigh Acres is another subject rarely discussed, even though it is the best way to prevent the virus from spreading.
It is hard to ignore the increasing STD rates and there are several factors that are causing them to rise. The lack of comprehensive sex education classes are one reason, especially when it comes to the STD rates in teens and young adults. Some students even graduate from high school not understanding how important it is to always use protection during sex, and most do not realize that regular testing should be a part of their health care routine.
Advances in medicine has made it possible for older residents to stay sexually active longer, and this helps to explain the rising HIV rates in men over 40. The majority of older adults have never had any type of sex education, and most do not realize that their behavior could be putting their health at risk.
One of the main contributing factors is the area’s high poverty rates. The majority of residents in this suburb are living well below the national poverty level, and this makes it difficult for them to afford regular testing fees. This is especially true now that Medicaid now longer covers this simple procedure. The cuts to health care has also forced several of the city’s testing facilities to close their doors, which has resulted in long lines and crowded waiting rooms at the few that are still open.
Until these and other issues are resolved this suburb can expect its STD rates to continue to rise.
Before you head to the beach it is important to take a few minutes to think about your sexual health. The number of STDs reported in the community each year is rising, and regular testing is important for everyone’s health. It is understandable if you don’t want to spend the entire day waiting in a long line at one of the city’s STI clinics, and now you don’t have to. With one simple phone call you can easily 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 enjoy a day in the sun.