Polk STD rate climbs 10% above national average in 15-24 age group

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BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk health officials say there’s a need for increased testing and heightened awareness after learning cases of sexually transmitted disease among 15 to 24 year olds in the county are 10 percent higher than the national average.

“Unfortunately, the rates of STDs have been trending upwards over the past few years in Florida and in Polk County,” said Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Department of Health in Polk County. “As a result, we are seeing a need for heightened awareness and increased testing.”

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In Polk County, 62 percent of reported STD cases involve 15 to 24 years old. This is two percent higher than the state level and 10 percent higher than the national level for this age group. Fifty percent of those who are sexually active will get an STD by the time they are 25 years old.

“We’re probably a little less likely to talk about STDs in our homes and in our society, also the fact that were between two metropolitan cities,” said Dr. Daniela Chiriboga, a senior physician with the Department of Health in Polk. “It’s a very serious problem. There could be long-term complications like infertility, chronic abdominal pain, and the person who is left untreated is going to continue to infect others.”

Because of these numbers, the Polk health department is partnering with community groups, including the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Alliance, to bring an STD awareness campaign to the county’s youth. This will consist of a social media campaign targeting people 15 to 24 years of age. The campaign is #WTF – What’s the facts. You can see more in this video.

“Our teens are having unprotected sex. They’re also involving themselves with multiple sexual partners, as well as well as not communicating with their parents,” said Marquinia Butts-Fisher with the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Alliance. Butts-Fisher works extensively trying to help teens avoid getting STDs or becoming pregnant. She says the collaboration is a natural fit.

“Our goal is to reach 600 teens with this information and resources, so that we can combat the statistics,” Butts-Fisher added.

The agencies will hold a teen summit on May 14 at Southeastern University. They will be handing out kits to encourage teens to make the right choices.

For more information regarding STD testing and treatment services, visit the Florida Department of Health in Polk County website.

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