Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) continue to be one of the leading causes of morbidity and death, specifically within the at-risk population, in Florida. The Florida Department of Health recommends that routine testing/screening is the only solution to reduce the disease's spread.
It is essential to understand that all three main STDs (Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and Chlamydia) are curable through antibiotics. But treatment can only commence once the diagnosis is made. If STDs remain undiagnosed and untreated, these pose a serious health risk for the individual and their partner(s). Some of the worst health consequences of undiagnosed STDs include the risk of HIV transmission, infertility, stillbirth in infants, and ectopic pregnancy.
In Florida, gay, bisexual males, young adults, and teenagers all face the risk of contracting an STD. Reportedly, there has been an alarming increase in Syphilis among newborn babies. According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Florida has the fifth-highest percentage of mothers transmitting Syphilis to unborn babies during pregnancy or delivery (93 cases).
CDC reported that around 40% of infants born to mothers having an STD would be a stillbirth or will die soon after being born. The rest of the babies may be premature birth and born with severe anemia, enlarged spleen/liver, or bone deformities.
Therefore, it is essential to undergo routine testing. Males must get tested, especially those in high prevalence cities and populations with a higher infection burden. Moreover, men who regularly indulge in MSM (men having sex with men) must mandatorily get themselves screened.
Timely screening can prevent the development of STDs and associated health consequences. CDC states that STDs testing is crucial for sexually active females aged 25 or above, especially those who are pregnant, have multiple partners, or whose partner has tested positive for an STD.
In Florida, the state health department is funded by CDC as part of the national project for reducing STDs via science-based prevention and control measures. The focus is on offering high-impact, cost-effective, scalable, and sustainable services.
Moreover, Florida is part of a network of STD programs to collect additional information to quickly and comprehensively shed light on the current STD trends in the state. Florida's Sexual Health Education Community Outreach Tool Kit is another effort to address the state's rising STD cases. The tool kit's key goals include providing information, strategies, and ideas to community members so that the number of STD cases and teen pregnancies could be reduced.
Additionally, the program's primary goal is to improve young adults' health to ensure their academic success. It also aims to educate community members regarding the need to devise and implement effective sexual education policies as well as evidence-based education programs. Florida needs effective, age-appropriate, and medically accurate sexual health education programs.
The number of STDs cases across the US have been rising steadily in the past five years. In 2018, around 2.4 million cases of STDs, including Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis, were reported by the CDC, which is a record high. Congenital Syphilis rates have tripled nationwide, with Florida being one of the top five states that account for 70% of all cases, despite that Syphilis can be treated easily with penicillin. The reason behind the alarming increase in STD cases is that individuals don't get tested.
A recent report from the CDC in collaboration with Innerbody.com featured several Florida cities in the top 100 USA cities having the highest percentage of STDs cases based on the 2019 data from CDC. Pensacola was at no. 61 with 950 cases per 100,000 populaces. The city had reported 2,124 chlamydia, 61 HIV, 45 Syphilis, and 827 Gonorrhea cases among 315,000 metropolitan area residents.
It is hard to ignore that both primary and secondary Syphilis continues to be a grave health concern for the Florida Department of Health, primarily among pregnant women and MSM males. The risk of infection getting transmitted to the unborn child exists in most parts of the state. In 2011, Florida reported 6.6 cases of primary/secondary Syphilis per 100,000 population, which increased to 10.5 in 2015-16.
Currently, Florida is at no.6 among the 50 US states for having the greatest number of primary/secondary syphilis cases. Between 2011-215, there were 191 cases of congenital Syphilis. Moreover, Florida appeared at no.25 in nationwide Chlamydial infections with 454 cases per 100,000 people. Florida was at no.21 in Gonorrheal infections (121 per 100,000 people). Among females, the rate of chlamydia infection was 2.1 times higher than males, with 610.1 cases per 100,000 persons, whereas men reportedly accounted for 291.4 cases in 2015.
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|Beverly Hills||Blountstown||Boca Raton||Bonita Springs|
|Clermont||Clewiston||Cooper City||Coral Springs|
|Crawfordville||Crescent City||Crestview||Cross City|
|Crystal River||Cutler Bay||Cypress Gardens||Dade City|
|Davenport||Davie||Daytona Beach||Deerfield Beach|
|Fern Park||Fernandina Beach||Florida City||Fort Lauderdale|
|Fort Myers||Fort Pierce||Fort Walton Beach||Frostproof|
|Gainesville||Green Cove Springs||Groveland||Gulf Breeze|
|Haines City||Hallandale Beach||Hastings||Hawthorne|
|Key Largo||Key West||Keystone Heights||Kissimmee|
|LaBelle||Lady Lake||Lake Butler||Lake City|
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|Lehigh Acres||Live Oak||Longwood||Lutz|
|Lynn Haven||Macclenny||Madeira Beach||Madison|
|Merritt Island||Miami||Miami Beach||Miami Gardens|
|Moore Haven||Mount Dora||Mulberry||Naples|
|Naranja||New Port Richey||New Smyrna Beach||Niceville|
|North Fort Myers||North Miami||North Miami Beach||North Palm Beach|
|North Port||Oakland Park||Ocala||Ocoee|
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|Palm City||Palm Coast||Palm Harbor||Palm Springs|
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|Seminole||South Daytona||South Miami||South Pasadena|
|Spring Hill||St. Petersburg||Starke||Stuart|
|Summerfield||Sumterville||Sun City Center||Sunrise|
|Wesley Chapel||West Palm Beach||West Park||Weston|
|Windermere||Winter Garden||Winter Haven||Winter Park|
For many Floridian teens, sexual activity states at an early age. According to the 2015 Florida Youth Risk Behavior Survey, sexual activity among teenagers increases with each grade level. Moreover, teens aren't only initiating sexual activity early, but they reportedly have multiple partners, which increases their chances of unintended pregnancy and STD infection. The survey results reveal that around 40% of students between grades 9 and 12 indulge in sexual intercourse at least once (roughly 278,120 students).
Moreover, in Florida, 9% of male students and 2% of females started sexual activity before turning 13 (approx. 30,700 and 7,464 students, respectively). Furthermore, around 24% of all 9th graders and 57% of 12th graders in Florida (nearly 44,490 students and 88,827 students respectively) indulged in sexual activity at least once, and 17% of 12th graders (approx. 26,800 students) have had sexual intercourse with multiple partners.
On a state level, the rate of teen births has risen considerably within the last two decades. There was a 7% increase in teen births between 2005 and 2006, whereas, in 2015, there were 12,086 teen births in Florida. Around 130 were under 14 years, and 11,950 were between age 15-19, while 16% of the deliveries to 15-19-year-olds were repeated births. Individuals between age 15-24, although made up just 13% of the state's total population; however, in 2011, this small group accounted for over 70% of all reported cases of Chlamydia. In 2014, among all the STDs cases reported in Florida, around 5% of primary/secondary Syphilis, 18% of Gonorrhea and 25% of Chlamydia cases were detected among adolescents between ages 13 and 19.
Floridian youth is particularly vulnerable to STDs. Several factors are responsible for this continuous incline in teen birth rates. The main reason is lack of awareness or knowledge on the prevention of the spread of STDs, and the other is the lack of access to proper follow-up medical care. STDs prevalence among youth is a serious issue because it can lead to many other chronic health issues, including infertility, hepatitis, cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, etc.
With the plethora of medications available, more and more older adults are indulging in sexual activity. Though there is a rise in STD cases among older adults across the US, the number of cases is the highest in Florida. Over the past five years, Florida has reported the largest number of Syphilis infections among the greatest generation. CDC assessed that in 2018, there was a 16.7% rise in Syphilis diagnoses in males above 65 years or more. According to the Athena Health Database, the diagnosis rates for Gonorrhea, herpes simplex, Chlamydia, Syphilis, trichomoniasis, and hepatitis B increase 23% in people over 60-years.
Generally, the curriculum's content and instructions are determined by the local school district policy following the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. Florida school districts are responsible for developing content for sexual health education courses (Family Life) based on policies that reflect local concerns and values, as narrated in Section 1003.42(3) Florida Statute.
A majority of Floridian districts have a district-specific written policy about the provision of comprehensive health education. It includes topics on sexual health education (Family Life). If any district hasn't developed such a system, it will utilize the state's policy.
CDC suggests that school districts need to encourage broad community participation to ensure school health education programs and policies effectively prevent the spread of STDs and HIV/AIDS. The programs must be determined locally after endorsing the community values where the curricula should be sequential and well-planned. Obtaining input from the community is an integral part of devising the health education policy and selecting programs that reflect those policies.
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