The city is the home of sweet onions and Georgia peaches but in 2013 it also made it to the top 100 of a list that not many are proud of. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the city comes in at 87 in a list of the top 100 sexually diseased cities in America. The report mapped the top 100 most sexually diseased cities using data reflecting numbers for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
These charts show the growth in STD cases and specific increase in young females. Some additional statistics collected by the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health that show the importance of being tested for STDs includes:
- The STD rate for Chlamydia is 948.3 per 100,000 double the national rate of 456.7 per 100,000 population.
- The rate of HIV infection is 437 per 100,000 over the national rate of 350.4 per 100,000 population.
- The Gonorrhea infection rate is 324.4 per 100,000 people, triple the national infection rate of 107.7 per 100,000 population.
Facts and charts like these are increasing the awareness in your community of the importance of regular STD testing and how it can help limit the spread of these infections.
Local sexual health education focuses on young people who are at risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. The state’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average, and young minority women living in the state have disproportionately high birth rates. Men who have sex with men are at the highest risk for HIV, and the above charts show that African American women suffer at rates vastly disproportionate to population. Because the risk for negative sexual health outcomes is a reality, comprehensive sexuality education and access to contraception are more important than ever to the health of Georgia’s youth.
While state law requires that abstinence be taught, it allows but does not require, programs to discuss condoms and other contraception. In 2006 the state received over $9 million in funds for federal abstinence-only programs. Federally funded abstinence-only programs, including the ones used in Georgia, cannot include information about the health benefits of contraception and condoms for sexually active youth and must teach that sex outside of marriage is likely to have harmful physical and psychological effects. Abstinence-only programs also must emphasize marriage as the only appropriate context for sex. Recent research on abstinence-only programs has found them ineffective, with no impact on reducing teen pregnancy, delaying sexual initiation, or reducing STDs.
Recent research on comprehensive sexuality education has shown that young people who receive complete and accurate information about abstinence, condoms, and contraception were not more likely to have sex or acquire an STD, but were significantly less likely to be involved in teen pregnancy. They learn that along with regular HIV testing, Herpes testing is very important since viral infections such as Herpes can be transmitted through asymptomatic casual contact with someone that has no visible symptoms.
According to the US Census data, in 2014 the population was 56,595 and it had increase by +29.4% since 2000. The median age is a very young 27.5 years old (Georgia’s median is 36.4 years old) due to the large population attracted by Valdosta State University (VSU). The estimated median household income in 2015 was $27,441 (it was $29,046 in 2000) compared to the Georgia average of $51,244. The crime rate index exceeds the nation average by %25.
The city has a high poverty rate and a low rate of health insurance coverage, putting it population at risk for STD infections. Citizens also have very few health care options when they feel there is an issue that needs to be dealt. In 2015 it was estimated that 48.3% of residents lived in households under the poverty level. These factors result in high STD rates attributed to a lack of education as well as funding for programs that offer free assistance.
Among VSU students, low use of contraceptives and infrequent health screenings play a large role in high STD rates. Technology is partly responsible, the rise of dating apps has lent to the STD problem, making quick hookups easier and more frequent. This is the perfect environment for the transmission of disease, because the sex is often unprotected.
All of these numbers can be alarming for good reason, but students should be aware that some of the diseases are preventable with the use of contraceptives, and general sex education. There are certain practices that students can adopt to help protect themselves against STIs such as frequent testing and monogamous dating.
The city creates a small town atmosphere with the Friday Night Lights each fall, Valdosta High School is one of top winning football programs in the US. But with the mix of the young locals and the VSU population you need to be aware of the increase in sexually transmitted diseases. If you’ve been avoiding taking care of your sexual health due to long lines, there is a choice that lets you make an appointment for same day STD testing. You can call to schedule confidential STD testing. It’ll only take about 20 minutes of your time at a local lab, and then it’s off to spend the rest of the day picking strawberries at Mallory’s Farm.