Additional STD Test Statistics in Pine Bluff, AR
Statistics indicate that the area, renowned for its natural beauty and friendly locals — has an alarmingly high rate of STD infections, particularly for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Jefferson County, the county in which Pine Bluff is located, accounts for almost 6 percent of the state’s chlamydia cases and more than 7 percent of its gonorrhea cases, as of 2014. And this percentage has been rising in recent years.
The area also has numerous cases of syphilis, 26 cases were reported in 2013 and 18 new cases were recorded in the following year. This figure mirrors nationwide trends that have shown a resurgence in syphilis cases (particularly among men). According to the most recent report from the CDC in 2012, more than 400 people in Pine Bluff; so roughly 0.50 percent of the population, have been diagnosed as HIV-positive.
This figure is dramatically higher than the numbers seen in neighboring communities, where figures tend to hover at less than 0.15 percent of the population. HIV/AIDS activists and sexual health educators express concern about the rise in HIV cases and believe that this is largely driven by a lack of information and education about HIV and how to practice safe sex. These educators also believe that the reported rates of STDs in the community may actually under-represent real infection rates (for all sexually transmitted diseases), because some members of the community are reluctant to undergo testing, for a variety of reasons.
STD Testing and Sexual Health Education in Pine Bluff, AR
There are numerous public health and sexual health educators in the area, and more generally, Jefferson County, who regularly hold education sessions and public forums to educate the community about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases, how to prevent the transmission of these diseases, and safe sex practices. However, sexual health education in Pine Bluff’s schools is relatively limited. Located deep within the United States’ so-called Bible Belt, the community tends to hold traditional and conservative values about many topics, including sex. As a result, most sexual health education programs in local schools are abstinence-based.
Other organizations have stepped forward to attempt to address this gap in education. The Arkansas Human Development Corporation has a comprehensive health outreach program that covers a wide umbrella of different issues. However, one important issue that they touch on is educating participants about sexual health, with a body positive and proactive curriculum. In addition to these government programs, the Hope Women’s Resource Center, which primarily provides services to young women who are dealing with unintended pregnancies — also provides education and counseling, as well as testing services. The Jefferson County Health Services Unit (through the Arkansas Department of Public Health) also provides free-of-cost STD testing for most STDs and also guarantees the confidentiality of results, which may be an important concern for many young people.
Many of the locations and organizations that provide STD testing services offer free condoms to anyone, and college students at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff also have access to free condoms at numerous sites on campus.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Demographics in Pine Bluff, AR
Numerous factors may help explain why Pine Bluff has significantly higher STD rates than what is seen in the rest of the state. One of these contributing factors is the fact that the University of Arkansas has a campus (the Pine Bluff campus) within the city limits. The historically black college and university (HBCU) currently enrolls a diverse student population of approximately 2,500 students.
Frequently, college-aged individuals are more promiscuous (a greater number of sexual partners) than older individuals, and oftentimes, individuals in this age cohort neglect to follow safe sexual practices (particularly if these encounters happen after an evening of drinking). Due to this, it is not uncommon to see higher rates of STDs, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea, among college students.
In part fueled by the location of the college, the demographics of Pine Bluff are significantly different than the demographics for the surrounding area and the rest of Arkansas. For example, the average age of a resident of Pine Bluff is almost 3 years younger than for the state, and far fewer residents of Pine Bluff are married. Again, this relatively young age and unmarried status may lead to individuals having more sexual partners.
As the number of sexual partners increases, the risk of STDs rises, especially if individuals are not engaging in safe sexual practices for whatever reason. Given the particular demographics of the region, it is important for schools (both public secondary schools) and the university to proactively and appropriately educate their students about sexual health. This education must be comprehensive and cannot simply rely on an abstinence-driven message.
STI Testing Resources in Pine Bluff, AR
There are numerous options that residents in the area can consider if they want to be tested for HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. Most of these facilities offer similar services at almost identical prices, and some places offer free testing via subsidized government programs. The availability of different testing options offers opportunities and choices to the health consumer, allowing him or her to pick the facility that is most convenient and comfortable for them.
In addition to the testing facilities that will be described in more detail below, it is important to note that residents of Pine Bluff can travel to Little Rock (which is a convenient drive of less than one hour, north on I530) to Arkansas’ Planned Parenthood Clinic. The Planned Parenthood office provides a wide range of services, including: providing birth control and abortion services, offering yearly pap smears and other important diagnostic testing, and providing comprehensive testing for STDS, as well as vaccinations for some sexually transmitted diseases (such as HPV). Some testing, however, does not have immediate results. For example, a patient must return five days later to receive their HIV test results — given the distance to Little Rock, this may be an inconvenience and barrier to some residents of Pine Bluff. Also, the Planned Parenthood Clinic is not open on the weekend — and only offers one night (Monday) with extended hours. This may also be a barrier to care for people with full-time jobs or university classes during the day.
For people who do not, or cannot, travel all the way to Little Rock, there are numerous local choices for STD testing. The Jefferson Comprehensive Care System and the Arkansas Department of Public Health offer testing services for most common sexually transmitted diseases, including rapid HIV testing. People can also obtain the HPV vaccine at both locations. For people with limited financial resources or concerned about the cost of testing, the Jefferson County Health Services Unit through the Department of Public Health provides free testing. However, it is worth noting that some patients (depending on financial resources) will be charged for the HPV vaccine.
In addition to these options, there is also a for-profit testing center located in the area, the STD Express Test. This option primarily markets itself and differentiates itself from its competitors via the large number of tests that it can offer. But, this testing diversity also comes with a cost. Prices here are significantly higher than what a person would likely find at another location.
Better Sexual Health in Pine Bluff, AR
We all are interested in ways to improve our health — from a better diet full of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables to a new exercise regime that helps us tone up and get more heart healthy. However, sometimes, we have a tendency to forget that comprehensive health also includes better sexual health. One important aspect of sexual health is regular testing for STDs and engaging in safe sexual practices to reduce the risk of transmitting these diseases. At the moment, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases is concerning in the Pine Bluff area. However, educators and activists are working to address stumbling blocks to better sexual health and there are a large number of testing options for people who want to address this topic proactively. Take control of your sexual health and take the next steps — test and educate yourself.
Here are the links to the resources mentioned above,