Why Are STDs Running Rampant In The Deep South?

Gay-Health-Doctor-360x240Boys, if you’re planning on traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this month, be smart about it.

According to recently released  figures from the Centers for Disease Control, Louisiana has the second highest rate of STDs in the nation, with fifty percent of new infections occurring between the ages of 15-24.

In fact, the South is leading the nation in new cases sexually transmitted diseases, according to the report, which is based on 2013 numbers. Eight of the 11 states with the highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were located in the Southeast. (The CDC didn’t include new stats for HIV/AIDS.) Researchers believe bans on comprehensive sex education plus lack of funding for STD testing are fueling the southern dominance of new infections.

Close to 20 million new infections are reported in the U.S. every year. But that’s only a tiny fraction of existing cases. The actual number is probably closer to 110 million. Many people (90 million to be precise) either don’t realize they’re infected or don’t seek medical help.

“STDs are hidden epidemics of enormous health and economic consequence in the United States,” the CDC stated. “They are hidden because many Americans are reluctant to address sexual health issues in an open way and because of the biologic and social characteristics of these diseases.”

In 2013, there were 1,401,906 reported cases of chlamydia. Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Alabama lead the nation with the most new infections.

There were also 333,004 reported cases of gonorrhea, with Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina leading the charge.

And there were 17,375 reported cases of syphilis, with Louisiana, Maryland, Georgia, Illinois, and Florida reporting the most new cases.

The CDC also noted an increase in syphilis among gay and bisexual men.

“If you are a sexually active man who is gay, bisexual, or has sex with men, you should request tests for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV at least once a year,” the CDC recommended. “More frequent STD testing is recommended if you are a pregnant woman, you should request for men at high risk.”

So what’s the deal?

Some speculate it may have to do with higher rates of poverty and lower levels of education.

According to the National Coalition of STD Directors, in Louisiana, almost 18 percent of people were living below the poverty line in 2011. The same year, Louisiana also ranked as the unhealthiest state in the country.

On top of that, Louisiana doesn’t require sex ed be taught in schools. If a local school district decides to teach it, the law mandates that educators promote abstinence over contraceptives.

Because everyone knows that works.

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