Even though it is the 5th largest city in the state, health officials were still surprised at the growing number of residents that are testing positive each year for a sexually transmitted disease. Statistics recently released by the state and CDC show that STD percentages are on the rise, and have been for the past twenty years.
Some residents are taking comfort in the fact that the number of sexually transmitted infections reported each year are still significantly lower than the other major cities in the state, but health officials warn this will soon change unless everyone in the community understands how important it is to get tested for all STDs at least twice a year. In all actuality, health officials record being tested every two to four months if you are sexually active.
It is not just Gonorrhea and Chlamydia rates that are rising, but the number of teenagers infected with the Herpes virus is also climbing as well. While HIV/AIDS rates are still staying low, the same cannot be said for primary and secondary Syphilis. In 2012 Middlesex County accounted for 21 percent of the Syphilis diagnoses in the state, and the number has risen in the last two years.
Some of the information regarding the STD rates in Lowell that residents should be aware of includes,
- 21 percent of the Syphilis diagnoses in 2012 occurred in surrounding Middlesex County compared to 19 percent in 2011.
- While Gonorrhea rates have slowly decreased in women, the number of men infected has almost doubled.
- Young African men and women account for the majority of Gonorrhea and Chlamydia incidents in the city, according to 2014 statistics.
A review conducted by an undergraduate at Bridgewater State University in 2012 found that the teen birth rate was 143 percent higher in Lowell than the rest of the state. If this isn’t an indication that the lack of sexual education programs in the classroom is putting students at risk, the high number of STDs reported each year should be enough to let officials know that something needs to be done to educate and protect everyone health.
Studies have shown that cities that have sexual education programs have a significantly lower teen pregnancy rate, and few students test positive for STDs. While some law makers that oppose implementing sex education classes in the public high schools worry that this will give teens a license to engage in premarital sex, the same studies indicate that this is not the case.
What many residents and students do not understand is that not all STDs are spread solely through sexual activity. Some of these viruses can be passed through other methods, and if someone tests positive it does not necessarily mean that they are having sex. This is one of the reasons why Herpes testing in Lowell is so important, especially for teens in public high schools where the virus is usually most prevalent. Regular HIV testing in Lowell is also important for everyone, regardless of their past sexual activity.
Lowell is proud of its history and diverse demographics, but this is also affecting the city STD rates. The conservative values embraced by many residents has made it difficult for health officials to make any progress in their efforts to educate everyone about the dangers of unprotected sex, and the importance of being tested for all of the STIs at least once or twice a year.
Without the information that is readily available in other areas with lower STD rates teens, young adults and even older residents will continue to be at risk.
The conservative beliefs are strengthened by many of the areas religious leaders who are also against sexual education being brought into the school system. This refusal to even admit that there is a problem is also making it difficult for teens and young adults to find someone to talk about their sexual health.
Lower income families are also finding it difficult to afford regular testing and recent cuts to the city health care budget has forced many of the free clinics to close. Without a place to go for testing many residents actually believe that it is not that important. Other contributing factors include a reluctance to wait at the few facilities that are still open, and many residents are simply too ashamed and embarrassed to be seen at a testing center. Until this changes the city can expect the number of infections reported each to continue to rise.
While it would be more entertaining to tour the Whistler House Museum or any of the other attractions in Lowell than get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, it is an important step in taking care of your health. If waiting in one of the lines at a neighborhood center is not an option, but you still want to be responsible for your sexual health there is an easier way. It is possible to schedule confidential STD testing so you only need to spend a few minutes at a nearby lab.