It is becoming increasingly difficult for local health officials to ignore the steadily rising STD rates in the city and surrounding Sandoval County. Statistics released by the CDC and New Mexico State Health Department indicate that the number of incidents reported each year is rising, and has been over the past two decades.
In the twelve month period between 2010 and 2011 Gonorrhea rates rose by 50 percent, and an alarming number of these cases are occurring in men. This is also true for primary and secondary Syphilis incidents since the majority occurred in men, according to 2012 statistics.
Women are still among those with the greatest risk for contracting Chlamydia, especially those between the ages of 18 and 24. While the statistics did show a slight decrease in 2009, by 2012 these numbers had risen significantly and are now close to state averages. HIV/AIDS rates are also rising, and men over the age of 24 present the highest risk.
Sexually transmitted diseases are more common in African American, Hispanic and American Indians, but this does not mean that other ethnicities are not at risk. STDs can and do affect everyone, regardless of race, age or sexual preference. The only way to slow and eventually stop the spread of STDs is for everyone to be tested on a regular basis. Some of the recent statistics that highlight the need for STD testing include,
- In 2012 the number of Gonorrhea infections in men had risen by 50 percent in the state and county.
- Women between the ages of 18 to 24 are twice as likely to contract Chlamydia as other demographics.
- 97 percent of all primary and secondary Syphilis cases occurred in men, according to 2011 statistics.
Even though national statistics showed that the state had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, and STD percentages were climbing public school districts are still not required to teach comprehensive and medically accurate sex education classes. In the school districts where there are sex education programs, most focus on abstinence as being the best method of preventing pregnancy and STD infections.
Information on contraceptives and their importance is not discussed, and most students do not realize that it is possible to contract a STD without engaging in sex. This is one of the reasons why Herpes infections are so common, since the virus can be easily spread through casual contact. Not only is the lack of education putting students’ health at risk, but also that of everyone they come into contact with.
Not only are students unaware of how STDs are spread, they also do not understand how important it is to be tested regularly. Currently regular HIV testing in Rio Rancho is the only way to detect this potentially deadly disease, and this applies to everyone in the metro city and county. Regular Herpes testing in Rio Rancho is also important, and it is the best way to slow and eventually stop the spread of the virus through area high schools.
There are several reasons why the STD rates are continuing to rise in the city and county, but the main one is the lack of information available to students and adults.
Since the state does not require comprehensive sex education programs in its public schools, the majority of students graduate without understanding how STDs are transmitted. Most teens and young adults do not even know that they might be at risk. If residents do not think that their health is in danger most will not get tested, even during regular physical exams.
Recent budget cuts to state and local health care programs are also contributing to the problem. Medicare and other insurance plans no longer pay for STI testing, and this is making it difficult for many residents to afford the simple procedure. These same budget cuts have also forced the free community clinics to operate on shorter hours, and this has resulted in long lines and an inability to make sure that everyone is getting the care that they need.
Strong religious and conservative beliefs have resulted in feelings of embarrassment and shame, especially among teens and older adults. Teenagers are often afraid to admit that they are sexually active, while older residents are embarrassed to find that they might have contracted a sexually transmitted disease. As long as residents are too ashamed to be seen at a STI clinic the number of incidents will continue to rise in the area.
Before heading down to the Rio Grande for a day on the river or into the city for some shopping it is important to take a few minutes and think about your sexual health. It is understandable if you don’t want to wait in a crowded neighborhood STD clinic, and now you don’t have to since there is a faster and easier way to get tested. Simply by making one quick phone call you can schedule confidential STD testing, and only spend a few minutes in the privacy of a local lab. This way you can take care of your sexual health, and still have plenty of time left to enjoy your day in this fascinating southwestern city.