By Justin Kerr
Sexually-transmitted disease rates in America continue to climb to record levels every year, and Kalamazoo county is no exception. It holds the second-highest gonorrhea and chlamydia rates per 100,000 people in the state.
In fact, Kalamazoo county rates are nearly double the state average in both gonorrhea and chlamydia rates.
“One of the major problems with chlamydia and gonorrhea is that a lot of carriers are asymptomatic,” Bronson Hospital nurse Erika Davids said. “More often than not, a person won’t get tested if they don’t show signs of there being an issue.”
One of the keys to fixing any problem is acknowledging there is a problem in the first place. A lot of carriers of the disease don’t even know they have it because they do not get tested, leaving future sexual partners at risk of being infected.
“It’s an ongoing cycle that needs to be stopped,” Davids said. “It takes an entire community to take on a problem like this. The easier we can make it on people to get themselves tested the better our chances are at stopping the problem, or at least slowing it down.”
Kalamazoo county has an online guide that assists providers with the best way to get testing, screening, treatment, education and counseling for patients at risk with an STD.
Although this guide can help those who are already at risk, it does not mean that it will solve the underlying issue of transmission. To prevent transmission of STDs, individuals who have not been tested should use a latex condom during sex, including oral sex.
“I think this is a problem that stems from our school system,” retired physician assistant George Johnson said. “They seem to teach more about preventing pregnancy rather than preventing an STD.”
School districts are required to teach about dangerous communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS at least once a year in elementary, middle school and high school, according to the Michigan Department of Education.
“I haven’t learned anything in classes about STDs since coming to college,” WMU student Spencer Palmer said. “We were given free condoms when I lived in the dorms, but no one wants to willingly talk about gonorrhea or any other STDs.”