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The increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Miami-Dade is alarming and is becoming a largely unnoticed trend. According to the statistics of the Florida Department of Health, the rates have nearly doubled since 2006. Chlamydia rate in the state is 419 per 100,000 people in 2013, while that of syphilis is 7.9 per 100,000 individuals (CDC, 2013). Younger people had high chances of contracting STDs. The age bracket of 25-34 has had a 5-percent point increase in STDs infection since 2009 in Miami-Dade (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013). This paper will focus on how STDs affect the Miami-Dade community, how they are identified, and what plan of action can be suggested to combat the diseases.
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease caused by infection with bacteria known as Chlamydia trachomatis. The disease causes proctitis and urethritis in both men and women and cervicitis in women. Besides, chlamydia can lead to ectopic pregnancy, tubal factor infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and chronic pelvic pain in women (Greifinger, Bick, & Goldenson, 2007).
Gonorrhea is an STD caused by the bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The bacteria affect the reproductive tracts by infecting the mucous membranes. The reproductive tract includes cervix, fallopian tubes, and uterus in women and urethra in both men and women. It also infects mucous membranes of eyes, mouth, rectum, and throat.
Syphilis is also a sexually transmitted disease. Treponema pallidum bacterium causes it; syphilis can result in long-term complications, such as cardiovascular and neurological complications when adequate treatment is not provided (Greifinger, Bick, & Goldenson, 2007).
Impacts of STDs on the Community
The economic burden of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis is associated with direct and indirect cost. The expenditures regarding medical and non-medical materials used to treat the STDs have become a burden to the whole community with regards to the tax payment. The same resources would otherwise be allocated for development programs for Miami-Dade residents.
Since the STDs increase the risk of acquiring and transmitting infections such as HIV, reported cases of death as a result of the HIV and the STDs have increased the number of orphans in the society and reduced skillful labor, which has a negative impact on the whole Miami-Dade community as productivity reduces.
It has been reported that in 2013 there were 400 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 residents. However, there were 200 cases in 2006. Syphilis infection percentages have also increased, rising from 8.4% per 100,000 to 16% and above in the same duration (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013). Chlamydia has caused fertility problems for the individuals left untreated. Syphilis is known to cause rashes and sores, and it may even result in paralysis and eventually death if untreated. The Miami Metropolitan area also had gonorrhea infections. Such deaths and health complications create a weaker community that is not reproductive.
Although sexually transmitted diseases in individuals under the age of 25 have had a decrease of 8% point, the same cohort is significantly more likely to have an STD than any other age group. They account for 56% of all syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea cases in Miami-Dade in the year 2014 according to CDC (2013).
Testing and Diagnosis
Miami-Dade authorities have majorly relied on laboratory tests to identify syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Blood tests done in most of Florida health facilities have been used to identify syphilis. Clinics in Miami-Dade screen residents to identify chlamydia that sometimes does not show any symptoms. Laboratory fluid sample tests from genital sores and fluid are used to identify gonorrhea.
The increase in syphilis is caused by men, especially those bisexual and gay. There have been speculations about the reasons for the rising infection rates with possibilities of the increase ranging from the lack of disease understanding to a progressively promiscuous culture among the residents.
The residents of Miami-Dade and the whole state often do not use condoms during oral sex according to the department of the health STD prevention program. The act of having unprotected oral sex is dangerous, because both syphilis and chlamydia get spread by unprotected anal, vaginal, and oral sex. Moreover, it is hard to detect chlamydia, since most time the disease does not have symptoms. Thus, it is often dubbed as the silent disease.
A stigma is always associated with the testing of STDs for adults, but the lack of education among the younger generation has been the major problem. Children do not usually have access to testing services although they do not fear getting tested once they have the needed information. In fact, teenagers can get tested for sexually transmitted diseases in Florida without their parents being notified. However, they lack knowledge that is allowed under the law.
Plan of Action to Combat the Diseases and Improve the Situation
Education has been partly blamed for the increase in infections. As a measure, health statutes in Florida and Miami-Dade say that, during instructions on health literacy or STDs, schools will teach all students abstinence from sexual activity before marriage while at the same time outlining the benefits and importance of monogamous heterosexual marriage.
The school system in Miami-Dade has devised and adopted a health education curriculum that is more comprehensive. In addition to teaching abstinence benefits, Miami-Dade health education also provides training on methods of safe sex for individuals who find abstaining difficult and remain sexually active. The education plan has inclusiveness policy for all sexualities. The measure is aimed at increasing knowledge and reducing infection rates.
There have been joint efforts between Miami-Dade schools and the Florida Health Department to decrease the number of sexually transmitted diseases to the target and baseline of the healthy people 2020. Miami-Dade has expanded the testing sites and introduced a mobile STD testing unit to contain them. The school system in the county is helping in the development of an app that will enable students to find testing sites with ease. The efforts will increase the number of people tested in Miami-Dade for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis each year, thus facilitating treatment to combat the STDs.
To reduce the proportions of individuals in the age bracket 15-24 years infected with Chlamydia trachomatis, there have been regional data collections about individuals routinely screened in different clinics in Miami-Dade. The plan is geared to making sure that the target setting of 10% in healthy people 2020 is realized. The rates enable authorities to know the parts of Miami that require exceptional education preventative measures for STDs.
As a means to check the infection rates for syphilis, the Florida Health Department in Miami-Dade County demands that all providers of health care in the county must screen pregnant women and treat syphilis for those who test positive. Health care providers are also obligated to prepare and promptly report all cases of syphilis to facilitate rapid public health follow-up (EPI Monthly Report Florida, 2013).
The rise in the number of mothers giving birth to babies with congenital syphilis in Miami-Dade County has intensified concerns among the state health officials. The healthy people 2020 targets are only achievable when the children born are without any complications that result from mothers’ infections, which are predisposing factors for children. As a counteractive measure, pregnant women are screened for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. It is an important measure employed by the authorities in Miami-Dade to prevent serious health complications to both the baby and the mother that may be connected with infection. Women receive medical care immediately after they get pregnant in order to ensure better clinical outcomes for the unborn child and herself.
In conclusion, Miami-Dade communities and social networks are all at risk of STDs as the infection rates have grown. They are tremendous health and economic liability to the Miami-Dade community. STDs predominantly affect young adults and youth with lifelong consequences. The severe consequences include reproductive health problems, cancer, neurologic diseases, and even death. Women and infants bear the largest brunt of STDs. However, measures are in place to salvage the situation; they include increase in testing points and availability of mobile testing units, curriculum adjustment to include sex health education to pupils and students, and mandatory testing and screening in all Florida clinics for pregnant mothers so as to realize the health people 2020 targets.