Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that cases of some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have reached an all-time high. Here in North Carolina, these increases are alarming – and they disproportionately impact young people, especially young people of color.
In North Carolina in 2018, young people ages 15-24 accounted for:
- 66% of new Chlamydia diagnoses
- 48% of new Gonorrhea diagnoses
- More than a quarter of all new HIV diagnoses
What does this all mean? It means that reducing STIs in North Carolina will require strategies designed specifically to improve young people's health.
It can be difficult to know why STI rates increase, especially because increased testing – an essential component of keeping people healthy – can increase rates simply by identifying infections that might otherwise go unreported. However, we already know that North Carolina can do more to reduce the impact of STIs on young people. We can:
- Ensure that all young people have access to high quality sex education and other health information so they understand STIs and how to maintain their own health.
- Increase access to teen-friendly healthcare – including testing, treatment, and PrEP for HIV prevention – and build providers’ capacity to serve adolescent patients.
- Engage existing tools, systems, and opportunities to address STIs and identify where we need implement new strategies.
- Challenge stigma with both young people and adults while building awareness of the rising STI rates and strategies to address them.
The pressing need to address STIs is clear. Making sure that North Carolina has strategies designed specifically to reach young people will be essential to turning STI rates around.