STDs in the city
In Sacramento, the rate of infection for sexually transmitted diseases has risen
When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, Sacramento is losing ground.
Recently released statistics for 2010 from the California Department of Public Health show that the rate of infection for some sexually transmitted diseases—notably, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis—have risen since the last report.
Sacramento County has the third-highest rate (infections per 100,000 people) for chlamydia and the second-highest rate for gonorrhea in the state, and that’s a big concern for Raquel Simental, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte’s director of public affairs for the Sacramento region.
“When I started at Planned Parenthood back in 2008, I was saying fifth and sixth,” she told SN&R. “Now we’re sitting at No. 2 and No. 3, behind Kern and Fresno.”
Small, rural counties may have higher rates, usually because access to treatment and preventive education is limited, according to Simental. She attributes the rising rates in Sacramento County to a lack of sexual-health education for a vulnerable population.
“The rates are highest among 15- to 24-year-olds,” she said. “If teens and young adults don’t know they’re risk, especially with STDs that are asymptomatic, like chlamydia, I really think that’s a part of the puzzle.”
And, while the Sacramento Unified Community School District does provide comprehensive sexual- and reproductive-health education, Simental noted that recent cutbacks in funding at both the state and the county level have hit sexually transmitted disease prevention hard.
“Planned Parenthood and the other reproductive-health educators can only do outreach to so many,” Simental said.
She pointed to the recent cuts—which led to the resignation of the county’s top health officer—at the county department of health.
“When the county had a department with the resources for STD outreach, we were catching as many as we could,” Simental said. “And now, they have few or none working on STD outreach, so it’s falling on the organizations like us, and we’re limited in the resources we have available, too.”
Maps provided by the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services show the incidence of chlamydia and gonorrhea by ZIP code in the county. They show the highest rates of infection with the two STDs in Elk Grove and Natomas areas.
“We need to encourage parents to talk to their children about sexual health, and if they’re uncomfortable talking about it, to find someone who can teach the facts about it,” Simental said. “It’s also important to make sure that schools are covering these issues in health education.”
She urged treating STD education in the same way that drug and alcohol education is approached.
“Parents often forget that information doesn’t equal permission. It’s important for them to state their values,” she said. “But make sure that your children are educated, because even if they don’t need the information, they will know someone who does.”