As the largest city in New England health officials expect STD rates to be higher, but no one was ready to see 834 cases reported in 2013. While this may only be a rate of 2.07 percent per 100,000 people, it is still higher than the state’s average at 1.71.
The city and Hillsborough County has seen its STD rates rise and fall over the last two decades and according to statistics recently released by the CDC the number of sexually transmitted infections are climbing again. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates are above state averages, along with the number of positive HIV diagnoses. What really caught health officials’ attention is the fact that primary and secondary Syphilis rates are also rising and are now even with national averages. This is particularly alarming given the relatively small size of the city when it is compared with others more densely populated across the country.
Health officials all agree that the best way to reduce residents’ risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection is to be tested at least twice a year, and even more if you ever feel that you might have been exposed to a STI. Without adequate testing, health officials fear that the number of positive diagnoses will continue to rise. Some of the statistics that residents should be aware of include,
- HIV rates in the county are 147.1 per 100,000 people compared to the state’s 102.9.
- Chlamydia rates are reported at 265.6 compared to the state’s reported 233 per 100,000 residents.
- Gonorrhea incident rates are also higher at 17.2 when compared to the 11.2 reported by the state.
Even though the state does support “pro-choice” and is aware of the rising number of sexually transmitted diseases reported each year, it still does not have a comprehensive sexual education program in public school districts. Schools are required to include sexual education in its curriculum, but after that the law is extremely vague.
There is no mention of whether parents can withdraw students from the classes if they feel that the information is inappropriate, nor are there any set guidelines for what is included in the program. The only format available for districts to follow includes promoting abstinence as the best method of protection against STDs and unplanned pregnancy, and that any information pertaining to HIV/AIDS must be medically accurate.
Without set guidelines much of the information students need to protect themselves from STDs is missing, and with studies estimating that 45 percent of graduating teens are already sexually active it is easy to see why they have one of the highest rates of infection. Many teens and young adults do not realize that these viruses can be spread without engaging in intercourse, and the majority doesn’t understand how important it is to be tested several times a year.
Regular Herpes testing in Manchester can help stop the spread of this virus, which is most common in high schools. Regular HIV testing in Manchester is also critical for students, parents and everyone else in the city.
Even though the city is growing and attracting new businesses and residents, its demographics still remain predominantly middle class with the majority of the population listed as Caucasian. This only highlights the fact that sexually transmitted infections can happen to anyone. Statistically in other major cities the rate of STDs is higher in minorities, many of whom are at or below the poverty level. This is not true in Manchester, and only emphasizes how important regular health screenings are.
One of the contributing factors to the area’s high STD rates is the lack of regulated sexual education classes in the public school systems. Studies have conclusively shown in states where comprehensive sexual education classes are mandatory the rate of infection is significantly lower. The number of teen pregnancies is also reduced when students have the information they need regarding the use of contraceptives.
Even though the state and city are billed as being “pro-choice” recent budgets cuts have forced many clinics to close their doors. Without the necessary facilities in the city’s neighborhoods, it is difficult for residents to get the health care they need.
Illicit drug use is on the rise, especially among older men. This is thought to be one of the main reasons primary and secondary Syphilis incidents are on the rise, and there are not enough treatment programs available for residents who may be putting themselves at risk. Until these issues are resolved the city can expect to see the number of residents who test positive each year continue to rise.
As you are touring the Zimmerman House or the Currier Museum of Art it is also important to take a moment to take care of your sexual health. Even though there are community health centers that are open to the public, many residents choose to avoid the overcrowded clinics and continue to put themselves and others at risk. With one phone call you can avoid the long wait and schedule confidential STD testing. It will only take a few minutes of your time at a lab, so you can enjoy the rest of your day exploring this New England city.