STDs: New Report Shows the Stakes are Higher for Black Women

November 21, 2011  |  

I don’t know about you, but pretty much any time I hear a new stat on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), I have the urge to run out and get tested. I could have literally just left the doctor’s office with the OK after a battery of tests and still feel the need to make sure I’m actually clean as a whistle.

The stigma, the thought of having to explain a sexually transmitted disease to a new partner, and the effect of an STD on my overall health weigh on my mind too heavily to do otherwise. And the idea that somewhere down the line a disease could prevent me from having children is a fear that shakes me when I think about possibly contracting an STD.

A new report from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention shows that black people have the worst rates of STDs overall—even despite the recent drop in the spread of syphilis.

  • Rates of Chlamydia among African-Americans are about 1,383 per 100,000, compared with 467 per 100,000 among Hispanics and 166 per 100,000 for whites.
  • Rates of gonorrhea for whites are 26 per 100,000. Among Hispanics, rates are about three times that at 63 per 100,000, and among African Americans, the rates are 512 per 100,000.
  • Rates of syphilis have fallen to 2.4 per 100,000 for whites, 5.9 per 100,000 Hispanics, and 20 per 100,000 for African Americans.

I think people tend to look at STDs the way I used to look at cancer. I know how prevalent cancer is, but because I never knew anyone personally affected by it until a few months ago, it was just an abstract concept. We hear about the rates of STDs and HIV in our community so much, but I think we don’t quite understand what those numbers mean. If we’ve gotten off the hook before with a disease scare, we’re probably even more likely to think it can’t happen to us or that there aren’t really as many infected people as there truly are.

But numbers don’t lie, and people in the African-American community are the most impacted by STDs of all groups.

Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, says the cause of the disparity is not racial. He told the press recently: “It’s not because someone is black or Hispanic or white that results in the differences that we see in STDs. It’s really what these represent in terms of differences in health insurance coverage, employment status, in ability to access preventive services or curative services. These are all factors which are going to have a huge impact on communities as well as individuals who are vulnerable to acquiring STDs or not getting them diagnosed early.”

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