The latest statistics released by the CDC and Lake County Health Department show that the STD rates in the area are rising, and have been for the past twenty years. This includes the number of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea incidents, along with HIV and Syphilis.
Teens and young adults are among those with the highest risk for contracting a STD, especially Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Adults over the age of 24 test positive more often for Syphilis and HIV. Men in particular account for the majority of HIV and Syphilis incidents, especially in the African American communities. Women ages 18 to 24 account for over 70 percent of the Chlamydia cases reported in the city and county each year.
Since 2000 the county has ranked second in the state for its high Chlamydia rate, according to 2015 statistics. It also ranks 5th for Gonorrhea rates and 4th for number of early Syphilis incidents reported each year. With these and the rates for other sexually transmitted diseases rising annually it has never been so important for residents to get tested on a regular basis.
While the high percentage of residents that test positive for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea have health officials concerned, what really worries them is the growing number of Syphilis and HIV cases reported each year. Ten years ago these rates were dropping, but as of 2008 they have reached near record highs.
Some of the other statistics that highlight the growing need for regular STI testing include,
- In 2015 the Chlamydia rate for the city and county was 369.7 per 100,000 residents.
- HIV rates rose to 110.2 in 2015 for the area.
- Chlamydia incidents rose from 2,021 reported incidents in 2000 to 2,945 in 2015.
In response to the rising number of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases reported each year, in 2013 the state governor signed a bill into law that required changes be made to the sex education programs currently taught in the public schools. Since then STD and teen pregnancy rates have continued to rise, and this is because many of the public school districts have decided not to offer any sex education classes.
The law only required public schools to add information on STDs and contraceptives to their sex education programs, it did not actually mandate that the districts had to offer these classes to their students. It also did not remove abstinence only policies from the programs, only stated that additional information should be made available to students. While proponents of the law are still stating that these “sweeping” changes will help protect students’ sexual health, the fact that the majority of schools still follow mainly abstinence based curriculum shows that the new requirements are not as “major” as they were portrayed by state lawmakers.
This means that students are still not learning all of the ways that STDs can be spread or even how to properly use a condom. Regular HIV testing in Waukegan is not discussed, even though this simple procedure is the only way to detect the potentially deadly disease. Regular Herpes testing in Waukegan is also ignored, and this is also one of the main reasons the contagious virus is so common in area high schools.
The lack of comprehensive and medically accurate sex education programs in city public schools is one of the main reasons STD rates are climbing. It is not uncommon for students to graduate not understanding the risks and responsibilities that come with being sexually active, and some do not even know how to properly use a condom. The importance of regular STI testing is also not discussed, even though this is one of the best ways to prevent any of the sexually transmitted diseases from spreading.
Budget cuts to the city’s health care system is also affecting the area’s STD rates, along with changes to Medicaid. The lack of funding has caused many community health centers to close their doors, and now that testing is no longer covered under Medicaid many low income residents simply cannot afford the fees. There has also been a few changes to state and county laws, and this has forced other clinics to shut down permanently.
Many teens and even adults often feel ashamed and embarrassed if they think that they’ve been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. Many of those potentially infected do not have anyone to talk to, and most do not want to be seen standing in line at a neighborhood STD clinic.
As long as residents are ashamed to get tested and the other contributing factors remained unresolved, the lakeside city can expect to see its STD rates continue to rise.
Before you head out to Lake Michigan or decide to spend the evening “clubbing” downtown, it is important to take a few minutes to think about your sexual health. It is understandable if you don’t want to spend the entire day waiting in a crowded clinic, and now you can easily take care of your sexual health just by making one phone call. This way you can schedule confidential STD testing and only spend a few minutes at a local lab, which still gives you plenty of time for fishing on the lake.