The rising STD rates in the city and same named county has become impossible for health officials to ignore. According to statistics released by the CDC and Yakima County Health Department the number of sexually transmitted diseases continues to rise each year. Since 1994 the rates for some STDs has nearly doubled, and most are already above state averages.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates have risen significantly, and statistics show that it is not just teens and young adults that are at risk. For the last ten years the number of adults ages 25 to 29 are also testing positive with alarming frequency. As of 2014 the number of older residents that contract these two STDs is significantly higher than that for other age groups.
The statistics also showed that until 2011 women were at a higher risk for contracting Gonorrhea, but over the last four years this has dramatically changed. As of 2014 the number of men who contracted this venereal disease had risen and exceeded the rates for women. This alone should be enough to convince residents of the importance of regular STD testing.
When it comes to the area’s high Syphilis rates men have the highest risk. Since 2009 the rate for primary and secondary Syphilis diagnoses in men has risen well above state levels, while less than 1 percent of the female population in the county tests positive. Some of the other statistics that are highlighting the urgency for regular STD testing include,
- In 2014 the Chlamydia rate for the county was reported at 604.5 percent, compared to the state’s 376.7 percent.
- Gonorrhea diagnoses were more than double the state averages in 2014.
- Women are twice as likely to contract Genital Herpes compared to men.
During the 2015-2016 school year parents were often confused and slightly worried about the information that might be taught in their children’s schools. An article published earlier in the school year indicated that sex education classes could begin as early as kindergarten, and this had parents understandably worried.
What has actually changed in the area’s sex education programs is that students will now be taught information that is medically accurate and relevant to society today. Public schools that do offer sex education classes are now required to include information regarding how all STDs are spread, along with the proper use and importance of contraceptives.
Students will learn how to use a condom, and how to protect themselves from STDs if they are sexually active. Abstinence will still be encouraged, but it will no longer be taught that it is the best way for teens to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.
While the new sex education guidelines only apply to public high schools that offer these programs, it is a positive step towards reducing the spread of STDs. Students will also learn that regular HIV testing in Yakima is the only way to detect the disease, and that the simple procedure could potentially save their lives. Regular Herpes testing in Yakima will also be covered, and educators are hopeful that this will help to reduce the number of incidents reported annually.
There are several reasons why the STD rates are so high in the city and county, but with the recent changes made to the sex education programs in the area high schools health officials are hopeful that they will start to decrease.
Along with a lack of available information, residents often find it difficult to locate a STI testing center. The city’s smaller size also results in fewer health clinics, and the ones that are open to the public often have long lines and crowded waiting rooms. It is not uncommon for residents to consider the long wait, and simply decide to put off this important procedure.
Recent budget cuts to the city’s health care system are also affecting residents ability to get tested. These tests are no longer covered under Medicaid, and this means that many low income residents simply cannot afford the STI testing fees. When all of this is combined it is easy to see how the city’s sexually transmitted disease rates climbed so high in only a few years.
Adding to the problem is the fact that many parents still are not discussing this subject with their children, and are not comfortable with them learning about safe sex practices in their local schools. As long as this continues the infectious disease rates will keep rising, and put everyone’s health at risk.
In between ski runs and camping trips to the state park it is important to take a few minutes to think about your sexual health. The number of STDs reported each year in the city is rising, and this means that everyone’s sexual health is potentially at risk. There are STI clinics nearby that residents can take advantage of, but the long lines has many people searching for a more convenient way to take care of the sexual health. Now you can skip the long wait at the community health center simply by calling to schedule confidential STD testing. This way you only have to spend a few minutes at a nearby lab and you will still have plenty of time to explore the Yakima Area Arboretum.