STD Rates Reach All Time High in Santa Barbara County

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo via Flickr.

Alyssa Smith

California is number one in STDs, according to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control, California has more reported cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis than any other state.

In Santa Barbara County, STD rates are also at an all time high, according to the County of Santa Barbara’s Public Health Department. In a report totaling data from 2011 to 2015, rates of the same three diseases rose steadily each year. However, Santa Barbara County has less per-capita reported STDs than the rest of the state.

College campuses often have a less than flattering reputation for the presence of unsafe sex and diseases that can accompany it. Santa Barbara has two large campuses (SBCC and UCSB), yet compared to California as a whole, the county has lower rates of reported STD’s.

Trends for increasing and decreasing cases of certain diseases in Santa Barbara County mirror the statewide trends. Preliminary data from 2016 suggests that trends for rising numbers of STD cases have peaked, but are still very high.

According to county data, males and females are almost equally likely to contract gonorrhea. For syphilis and chlamydia, though, the likelihood of contraction varies greatly between genders.

Females in all age groups and ethnicities are far more likely to contract chlamydia than males. In fact, 70 percent of reported chlamydia cases in Santa Barbara are from females. For syphilis, males of all demographics are more at risk.

One contributor to the rapid spread of STDs and the growing number of reported cases is the amount of people not getting tested. Many STDs are asymptomatic, which means someone can be a carrier for a disease without showing any noticeable symptoms. Although an individual may not have any symptoms, they can very easily still have an STD and transmit it to their partner without knowing.

Certain sexually transmitted bacterial infections can be cured, such as Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia. However, STD’s that are viruses can not be cured, like Herpes, Hepatitis A/B,  and HIV/AIDS. Some STD’s can also have long lasting or life-altering consequences.

In 2015, the state of California spent over $12 billion on funding “the state and two local health departments to reduce STDs through science-based prevention and control services that are high-impact, scalable, cost effective, and sustainable.”

Even the curable STI’s can be dangerous if not treated, possibly leading to pelvic inflammatory disease, bloody bowel movements, or even organ damage. There are many local health centers that give STD tests for little to no cost, such as the Student Health Center, the IV Clinic, and Planned Parenthood. County officials recommend individuals seek testing for STDs as soon as they think they are at risk.

“Epidemiologic studies that compare rates of HIV infection between condom users and nonusers who have HIV-infected sex partners demonstrate that consistent condom use is highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV,” according to the CDC. “Similarly, epidemiologic studies have shown that condom use reduces the risk of many other STDs.”

So remember, use protection.