Between the years of 2011 and 2015, Virginia has witnessed a stagnation in HIV rates. Residents are being tested in large numbers, and the results are coming back at rates that neither rise, nor fall, between years.
Black residents have the highest incidence of HIV positive tests, with 35.3% of all Virginia cases being in the black communities in 2015. Male-to-male sexual contact continues to lead the transmission source, with 418 cases in 2015 having this transmission route.
As for other STD’s in the state, chlamydia leads the way, as it does in so many other states. This is due to chlamydia’s asymptomatic behavior. In 2013, there were 556.3 cases per 100,000 female residents, and 251.4 cases per 100,000 male residents.
According to a report published by the Department of Health in 1999, the history of STD’s in the state has remained stagnant. The report states that the black community had the highest incidences of HIV and gonorrhea. However, the white population beat the black population for hepatitis C, an STD which is also transferred through intravenous drug use. Other statistics that haven’t changed are:
- 20-year-olds remain at highest risk for positive HIV tests
- The northern region reported the least amount of positive tests, in 1999 and recently
- Gonorrhea and chlamydia are reported year-round, whereas other communicable diseases are more common during certain months
The state provides a number of different educational opportunities for residents and visitors to learn more about prevention, testing, and treatment. The Department of Health provides statistics for a number of different STD’s, including HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. The site also includes further information, such as links to the CDC to learn the signs of an STD, how to prevent STD’s, where to get help, and how to handle treatments.
The State Educational Board approaches STD education in the schools through programs geared toward prevention. Issues are covered in health classes, where teachers discuss personal safety, abstinence, and ways to reduce the chance of contracting an STD. There is little education, through the schools, regarding testing facilities, or how to seek confidential treatment. Virginia also supports the Family Life Education program, where specific topics are discussed, specifically age-appropriate discussions on the following topics:
- Family living
- Community relationships
- Abstinence education
- Postponing sexual activity
- Benefits of adoption for unwanted pregnancies
- Human sexuality
- Human reproduction
This method of education is referred to as the abstinence-until-marriage approach, where educators do not inform students of community-based resources for STD testing, but instead push the idea of one partner in marriage. According to Advocates for Youth, this type of education rarely works, but the Federal government continues to fund programs, so states continue to utilize the programs. Residents and students must seek separate education to learn more about STD testing and treatment, especially as the statistics prove that the state’s STD rates aren’t going away.
Evidently, STD testing is widely reserved for adults. The teenage population may hesitate to get tested simply through an ignorance to the testing methods. If a teen has been through the abstinence education through the school system, then contracts an STD, that teen has a higher chance of hiding the illness through shame. That same teen will also lack information on how to confidentially get tested without the support of family and friends. The disease then spreads and continues to wreak havoc on the teen’s health. Dropout rates don’t matter, as most teens pass through high school education without receiving in-depth information on STD’s.
The state is only ranked 11th in the nation’s poverty rate, so income is a small factor in reduced instances of STD testing. However, many of the poorest residents reside in the inner cities of Richmond, Norfolk, or Chesapeake, resulting in an undereducated class, living in close proximity, who do not have the funds to seek medical care.
While some STD clinics are free, many living in poverty still do not seek testing, due to the fact that preventative care is not part of their natural routine. What’s more, the State of Virginia presents the fact that black or Hispanic individuals are more likely to live below the poverty line in the state, and earlier statistics proved that Black residents had the highest incidences of STD’s.
A combination of poverty, mixed with a lack of information, are the underlying reasons for Virginia residents to avoid STD testing.
Better Sexual Health with STI Testing
No matter where Virginia takes you, from the rapids of the streams, to the historic Civil War sights, to the starfish-studded aquariums, it’s important to make sure to work in a regular STD test. Even if the tests are consistently negative, personal health through STD testing must be on top of the priority list. Skipping the long lines at the free clinics with one simple phone call will put more time on the clock for fun activities, such as wind surfing in the ocean or exploring downtown Richmond, with its vast military statues and pristine walking paths.
The time in the lab is under a half hour, and regular STD testing is only once every six to twelve months. It’s a win-win situation all around that maintains health and keeps the fuel under the feet to explore every opportunity Virginia offers its residents and visitors alike.