Statistics recently released by the CDC and Hampton Roads Metropolitan Health Department show that STD rates are rising in the area and have been for the last several years. While some cities in the metro area are seeing a slight improvement, the same is not true for Suffolk.
The statistics show after decreasing slightly in 2011 and 2012 the number of STDs reportedly annually is increasing again. This includes Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates, along with those for Syphilis and HIV. Currently the metro area is ranked 5th in the state for the number of new HIV incidents that are reported each year.
African American males account for over 70 percent of the new HIV cases, with the majority occurring in men under the age of 29. This is also true regarding the incident rates for all types of Syphilis, though the recently released statistics are showing that older men are starting to test positive more often. The number of Hispanics and Caucasian males that are diagnosed with Syphilis is also rising and this only emphasizes the importance of regular STD testing.
Women under the age of 25 account for the majority of Chlamydia incidents with African American and Hispanic females among those with the greatest risk for contracting the sexually transmitted disease. Women are also at an increased for Gonorrhea, followed closely by men. Overall, men under the age of 35 are at the greatest risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
Some of the statistics that highlight the growing STD problem in the metro area include,
- 72 percent of the HIV cases in 2013 occurred in African American men.
- In 2015 the rates for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and HIV were above state averages.
- The Chlamydia rate in 2014 was reported at 771.2 per 100,000 residents, compared to the state’s at 431.8.
In 2016 a bill was passed requiring public school districts to include information on consent and assault in their sex education programs, if they offer one. Currently the state does not require its public schools to offer sex education, and if they do it must be abstinence based. Surprisingly after news outlets have been publicizing the growing number of sexual assaults on college campus, and even in high schools, a large number of parents and educators still do not think that this information is pertinent to students.
The lack of comprehensive sex education classes is leaving students at risk for contracting and of the STDs and passing them onto others.
It is not uncommon for students to graduate without understanding all of the risks and responsibilities that come with being sexually active. Many do not fully understand how STDs can be spread, and many do not even know how important it is to always use protection if they are going to engage in sexual activity. As along as these and other topics are not discussed at home or school the STD and teen pregnancy rates will continue to rise.
Since sex education is not taught at many of the local high schools most students do realize how important it regular HIV testing in Suffolk is, especially now that the disease rate is rising. Regular Herpes testing in Suffolk is just as important, and it could help stop the spread of the contagious virus.
The lack of sex education is contributing to the city’s high STD rate, especially among teens and young adults, but it is not the only factor that is contributing to the problem.
The majority of residents simply do not believe that they could ever be at risk for a sexually transmitted disease. Since most are not aware that a STD can be spread without engaging in sexual activity they see no reason to get tested. Some STDs do not display any immediate signs or symptoms and others can mimic a cold or the flu. This makes it even more important for residents to make regular STD testing a regular part of the health care routine.
Budget cuts to health care are also contributing to the problem. Lack of funding has caused many community health centers to close their doors, while others have limited hours of operation. Adding to the problem is the fact that STD testing is no longer covered under Medicaid. Not only can it be difficult to find a place to get tested, many lower income families simply cannot afford the fees.
Intravenous drug use is thought to be the main reason Syphilis and HIV rates are rising. Friends and even family members often share needles, and this is one of the most common ways these diseases are spread.
Before you take off to explore this historic city and everything else the metro area has to offer it is important to take a few minutes to think about your sexual health. The number of STDs reported annually is rising, and this means that it is imported to visit a local STI clinic. If you don’t want to spend the day at the community health center there is a faster and easier way to take care of your sexual health. Simply by making one quick phone call you can schedule confidential STD testing at a local lab. This way you still have plenty of time left to explore.