By Daniel Urenda |Staff Writer|
San Bernardino County has recently reached the highest level of reported STD cases in country history. The majority of STD cases reported in 2016 have been from individuals 15 to 24 years old.
In response to this, officials in San Bernardino have formed a community STD task force in order to fight back against the rising rate of sexually transmitted diseases afflicting the county.
The task force will largely consist of doctors, school representatives, church groups and community members in general.
The first meeting of this newly formed task force took place on April 19, at San Bernardino Valley College.
Attending the meeting were several of San Bernardino’s top health officials.
Among the items discussed at this meeting were the questions of what is causing the rise in STDs in San Bernardino and the U.S. in general.
Due to the prevalence of birth control and medical services in the county, cases of unwanted pregnancies and HIV have dropped considerably.
Cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea, on the other hand, have risen dramatically. In 2016, San Bernardino ranked 16th out of all counties in the nation when it came to the amount of reported cases of chlamydia.
It ranked 25th in cases of gonorrhea.
Some officials at the meeting believed it was largely due to the amount of hook-up apps in use across the Inland Empire.
Others pointed to the increasing resistance modern STDs seem to have to antibiotics.
Another concern raised by health officials in the task force was the rising amount of congenital syphilis, which refers to infants born with syphilis contracted from their mothers.
This causes concern due to the fact that syphilis is treatable, making congenital syphilis entirely preventable.
While there are several ways the Task Force is planning to combat rising STD rates, the group claims that abstaining from sexual activity is currently the best option for county residents.
They are also advising sexually active individuals to get tested often.
“I had no idea it was that bad, but at the same time I’m not really surprised,” said student Samantha Taylor. “It makes sense to tell people ‘stay abstinent’, but I don’t think it’ll accomplish anything at all.”
While some students are unsure how effective this task force will be, some feel that simply raising awareness will be an accomplishment.
“I was really young when I got infected with an STD,” said a student, who wished to remain anonymous. “We got basic sex ed in middle school, but me and all my friends thought they were really rare and there was no way we could ever get them.”
Additionally, the task force will be pushing health care providers to judge patients as little as possible in order to decrease the stigma around STDs and encourage infected individuals to seek treatment.
STDs are a significant problem, even within the school, according to Dr. Richelle Marracino, CSUSB Medical Chief of Staff.
“The ‘fight’ against STD’s begins with each student taking responsibility for their actions, not making assumptions they are safe, and taking the necessary measures to be safe without exception,” said Dr. Marracino.
The CSUSB Health Center collaborates with San Bernardino County’s Department of Public Health to screen for and treat STDs in addition to raising awareness.