The CDC and St. Charles County Health Department recently released statistics that clearly show that the STD rates for the area is rising, and has been for the past twenty years.
Currently the metro area has one of the highest Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates in the country, and the number of Syphilis incidents reported annually is also increasing.
Women are among those with the greatest risk for contracting Chlamydia, especially teens and young adults. When it comes to Gonorrhea infections, men under the age of 25 are twice as likely to test positive for the sexually transmitted disease as women. What is surprising to some health officials is the sudden increase in the number of incidents reported in men 45 years of age and older.
Syphilis and HIV rates are also rising, though not as rapidly as some of the other sexually transmitted diseases. Men are also at a greater risk for contracting these two STDs than women, regardless of their sexual preference.
Demographically, African American men and women are testing positive for at least one sexually transmitted disease at a higher rate than other ethnicities. This is especially true regarding those ages 18 to 22. Some of the other statistics that highlight the importance of regular STD testing include,
- The city and surrounding metro area currently rank in the top 20 nationally for its high Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates.
- In 2015 the metro area reported an estimated 15,000 cases of Chlamydia, an increase of more than 240 compared to 2014.
- From 2014 to 2015 the number of Gonorrhea cases reported increased by 900.
With STD and teen pregnancy rates rising state lawmakers decided to take some action. After cutting large portions of a bill that proposed sweeping changes to the current abstinence based sex education policy, students will now learn about the dangers of “sexting” and online predators. While this is a positive step towards helping teens stay safe, and make smart decisions when they are online it does little to protect them from unplanned pregnancies and STDs.
Abstinence will still be taught and strongly encouraged, which means that teens will only learn the basics regarding HIV and STDs that is required by federal law. This is leaving many of the area teens unprepared and unable to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.
Under the current state law teachers are not even allowed to answer questions pertaining to any type of sexual activity, and this is leaving educators and students frustrated. Adding to the problem is the fact that often the information contained in the abstinence based classes is unproven medically or designed to make students feel embarrassed or ashamed if they are sexually active.
Since information on the importance of regular herpes testing in O’Fallon is not included in the current sex education policy, most teens do not realize that it is the best way to prevent the spread of the contagious virus. Regular HIV testing in O’Fallon is briefly mentioned, though sex education presenters do not discuss how the simple procedure is the only way to positively detect the disease.
Demographics do play a role in the city’s STD rates, and there are several affecting this suburb. As part of the St. Louis metro area the suburb is included in the larger city’s statistical data, and this can cause the STD rates to appear slightly higher than they are for the small community. This does not mean that the incident rates aren’t rising, only that they aren’t higher than the suburb’s actual population.
The closing of several large business coupled with the recent economic crisis that effected the country, the city has been forced to make several cuts to its public health care system. When this is combined with the recent changes to Medicaid it is not only difficult to find a STI clinic that is open, but many residents are finding that they simply can’t afford to take care of their sexual health. Unfortunately due to the strong conservative beliefs held by current elected officials these problems are unlikely to change anytime soon.
What is perhaps the biggest contributing factor to the city’s high STD rates is the lack of sex education. While teens do need to be aware that online predators are a real risk and sexting could have unpleasant complications that affect them for the rest of their life, the same is true regarding sexually transmitted diseases.
Until elected officials understand the risks associated with STDs and take the necessary steps to help the public protect itself, the incident rate will continue to increase.
Before you catch a reenactment from the War of 1812 or enjoy a picnic at Dames Park, it is important that you take a few minutes to think about your sexual health. The STD rates are rising in the small city, and regular testing should be a part of your health care routine. If you want to avoid the long lines at the community centers you can easily schedule confidential STD testing with one simple phone call. This way you only have to spend a few minutes at a local lab, which still gives you plenty of time to tour Krekel House.