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STD rates high in Missouri's youth population

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Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 8:33 pm | Updated: 4:16 pm, Mon Feb 11, 2013.

Despite the numerous assemblies and classes young people attend regarding safe sex, sexually transmitted diseases remain a growing problem in the Show-Me State.

Missouri’s STD rate ranked as one of the highest states across the nation. According to the Center for Disease Control, the state came in 11th for reported gonorrhea cases and 17th for chlamydia cases in 2011.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, over 7,800 cases of gonorrhea were reported in 2011, a number that has steadily increased since 2009. Of the reported cases of gonorrhea in 2011, over 4,000 came from people between 15 and 24 years old.

According to the CDC, many men and women experience little to no symptoms, which means multiple cases remain untreated. Gonorrhea can result in serious and permanent health problems, including the inability to reproduce.

“The younger generation likes to play with fire, and when it comes to sex, sometimes they get burned,” senior Colby Morris said.

Chlamydia cases also steadily increased over the past six years. In 2011, there were over 27,800 cases reported in Missouri, with over half coming from the 15-24 age demographic.

“It’s obvious that there are a lot of unsafe sex practices going on that have put many young people at risk,” said Judy Freuh, Wellness Center clinic supervisor.

While the state produces high numbers, most cases come from metropolitan areas like Kansas City and St. Louis. According to the Missouri State Health Department, 74 percent of all gonorrhea cases came from Jackson and St. Louis Counties.

Rural areas, such as many of the counties that make up the Northwest region of the Missouri report lower statistics. Nodaway County only reported 81 cases of chlamydia and 4 cases of gonorrhea in 2012.

Along with 29 other states, Missouri has emphasized abstinence above all else in sex education classes.

“I think selective partnership and safe sex practice should be emphasized rather than abstinence because it has been proven that teaching every kid that they must wait until marriage has not worked,” sophomore Ben Louchios said.

A 2007 study by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States concluded that STD rates were often higher in states that had an abstinence-only sex education policy.

“Abstinence is the best policy; however, safe sex practices need to be taught,” Freuh said.

The CDC outlined a few practices that have been successful in reducing sexual risk behaviors. These practices include a delay in people’s first sexual encounter, a decline in the number of sex partners and an increase in condom or contraceptive use.

“Here at Northwest, we give students access to free condoms from the Wellness Center and provide the campus with free sex education programs,” Freuh said.

Students can receive STD and HIV testing at the Wellness Center.

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