Mississippi’s STI rates climax
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012 00:04
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 726 in 100,000 Mississippians are infected with chlamydia, ranking Mississippi first in the nation when it comes to chlamydia cases.
Only 10 counties in Mississippi have less than 300 in 100,000 people who are carriers of the sexually transmitted infection (STI). In comparison, only one county in both Utah and Maine have more than 300 people per 100,000 people that are carriers of chlamydia.
The CDC also ranked Mississippi as the nation’s leader in gonorrhea cases. Per 100,000 people in Mississippi, about 209 people carry the infection. Comparatively, less than 10 in 100,000 people in Idaho carry gonorrhea.
According to the Mississippi Department of Health, Mississippi was ranked fifth in the nation in syphilis cases in 2009, and the state jumped to earn the second place spot in 2010. Mississippi also holds the sixth place spot for HIV cases in the nation.
April is STI Awareness Month, and many believe that students should become more aware of the implications and consequences of the contraction of sexually transmitted infections. The CDC reported that almost half of all new STI cases occur in people ages 15-24.
The Mississippi Department of Health also reported that 76 percent of reported chlamydia cases were found in people ages 15 to 24.
University of Southern Mississippi professor emeritus Karen Lundy is the adviser for VOX, a student organization that represents Planned Parenthood of America. Lundy said STI screening is necessary among college students.
“We advocate that anyone who is sexually active get regular screenings for all STIs at the least annually for men and women,” Lundy said. “College students are the greatest risk for any consequence of sexual activity.
Kristen O’Flarity, a community health sciences and Spanish double major, is the president of VOX.
“According to Student Health Services, one in four students on this campus have an STD,” O’Flarity said. “Getting tested would certainly change that.”
Sara Thigpen, a junior nursing major, said students should be tested regularly.
“College is the time for the young generation to explore and experience new things,” Thigpen said. “People are going to have sex. It’s just important to be safe. Using protection and getting tested regularly is key to having a healthy sex life.”
“The most effective way to protect our sexual health is prevention and to be as responsible for our reproductive system as for any other system in our body,” she said. “The key is breaking the chain of contagion and continuing to pass along these diseases sexually. The way we can do this is educating people about condoms.”
Many events are being held on campus during STI Awareness Month to implement sexual health education to students. Student Health Services will be hosting HIV Rapid Testing in which participants will find out if they are HIV positive in fifteen minutes.
“HIV Testing is as easy as a finger prick,” Lundy said.
VOX will be hosting a sex forum, and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) is will be hosting four nights of panel discussion regarding sexual education next week in Joseph Green Hall 115. Monday through Thursday, various guest speakers will address different sexual health topics, such as orgasms and the basics of sex, pregnancy and abortion, birth control and STI awareness. The panel discussions will begin each night at 6:30 p.m.
Lundy said that most STIs carry no symptoms, and that holds true especially for women.
“Dentists won’t even screen someone without using gloves and masks,” she said. “Protecting yourself is the moral thing to do.”