Being born and raised in Las Vegas Nevada, I am glad I live far away from the “heart” of Vegas because we really do live up to our nickname of “sin city.” STDs and STIs have always been an issue nationwide but recently since 2016 there has been a noticeable spike of increased reports of STDs in Nevada. Specifically southern Nevada had the most cases and it is no surprise that it is happening especially in The Las Vegas valley. Before going into the issue itself I want to start at the root of what I believe to be the problem and that is the Nevada education system. In 2015 The Las Vegas Sun wrote an article titled, “What students are learning in sex ed in Clark County schools” and it is still relevant today given that it is still being approached the same way. This article explains how there are usually three approaches used by school districts towards sex education in schools.
The article explains how state of nevada law says that “Sex education in state schools is mandated by Nevada law, which calls for “factual instruction concerning Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” and “instruction on the human reproductive system, related communicable diseases and sexual responsibility.”’ The law can be interpreted in many ways, so at the district level, it’s the school board that has final say on what students learn. This implemented the curriculum that is now used in schools. Here is the breakdown of what is supposed to be taught in clark county schools.
“Boys and girls start by learning anatomy. A 45-minute discussion about puberty comes before a 20-minute video produced by Procter & Gamble Co. called, “Always Changing About You,” which has versions for girls, boys and coed groups. The final lesson is a PowerPoint presentation about HIV and AIDS. Teachers follow a tight script, down to the exact moment they should hand out worksheets.” Although this is what is supposed to happen, many (such as the school I went to and others, did not feel the need to introduce HIV and AIDS to 10 year olds and skipped over it only talking about puberty and reproductive anatomy (excluding anything sexual).
“Students learn more about puberty and start talking about sex. They discuss the social, emotional and physical consequences of sexual activity and learn how the cycle of pregnancy works. They also discuss healthy relationships and abstinence, with a focus on the benefits of remaining abstinent. The curriculum includes information about contraception, but it is discussed mostly in comparison with the benefits of abstinence.” Again, this is what is supposed to happen but I, along with many other people I know from different middle schools, did not get a class conversation about this much less any sort of course or curriculum at all during this time period.
“For the most part, sex education in high school doesn’t differ much from middle school. Students review the reproductive system, consequences of sexual activity and benefits of abstinence. They learn about the risks of teenage pregnancy and about parenthood.” During high school this was finally in fact what we learned about. We got our first conversation and explanation of AIDS/HIV and different types of STD’s/STI’s and the differences between them. We were taught about sex and pregnancies and while they talked about how abstinence was the only 100% way to be safe but if we want to protect from HIV and AIDS during sex that a condom is the next best thing. WE were taught what AIDS and HIV is and how it works in the body (something I had never heard of before) and all of us understood. Our teacher took a poll after the course to see how many people knew about everything before hand and only one person out of a class of approx 70 raised their hand and they were an out of state student. Virtually nobody had had the middle school course and many students at that time were already sexually active, some having started at the age of 10… maybe this is a unique situation to Las Vegas, maybe not but it is an issue given the amount of sex trafficking of young girls in the valley and STD rates.
The webpage of the Attorney General, Paul Laxalt, has a tab with current topics and one of them includes human trafficking. It states that “Human trafficking happens all over the world … According to the Polaris Project, as many as 27 million people worldwide are currently victims —1 million of which are sexually exploited children. Perpetrators have discovered that human trafficking is big business, generating up to $32 billion a year in profits.” and of these 2 million, it is unknown how many are in Las Vegas itself. Since 1994 “…the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has recovered 2,229 victims of sex trafficking” From these it is unknown exactly how many people have come in contact with and caught an STD or STI but according to the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2017, “Clark County ranked in the top 20 U.S. counties for sexually transmitted diseases in 2016, while Nevada as a whole came in No. 2 in the nation for its rate of syphilis, according to new federal data released this week.” More than 2 million cases were reported nationwide and approx 19,500 were from nevada. Michael Lyle wrote an article for Nevada Current titled, “STDs on the rise nationally and in Nevada”, in June 2018 and describes how since 2017 there has not been an improvement in the increase of STDs.
As STD rates have grown, funding for testing and treatment has fallen. The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public and Behavioral Health receives funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which then distributes it to various health districts and medical outreach clinics throughout the state. According to the article by Lyle, “In the 2017 fiscal year, the Southern Nevada Health District received $440,670, 11 percent less from the $493,925 it received in 2016, ” meaning that as STD rates are increasing due to people not using condoms, hookup culture and dating apps, the health district is receiving less funding for rising problems.
Not only is this a problem in Las Vegas and southern nevada, this is becoming a nationwide problem but being “sin city” we are more susceptible to STDs given our reputation and what Las Vegas is known for but there IS things that can be done to combat it before it even happens. One such method is simply education. By educating people before they reach an age where they are likely to have sexual relations you can decrease the stigma regarding talking about diseases and using contraceptives to be safer and to have conversations regarding safe sex, consent, what to do if an STD or STI is suspected, what to do during pregnancy. Teaching about all different kinds of contraceptives, STD’s and STI’s, what is consent and what is not, and options/resources during pregnancy whether it is wanted or not is what will hopefully help decrease transmittable diseases by making people aware of the risks and aware of the options. If someone is at least aware about the risks and preventions available maybe it will spark a red flag when something seems wrong. Along with education reforms, campaigning and spreading awareness in lower income areas and towards people of color (African Americans make up 47% of the HIV and Aids community, Reported by the CDC), prevention could be achieved, lowering the statistics.
Bekker, J. (2017, September 29). Clark County ranks high in STD cases. Retrieved from https://www.reviewjournal.com/life/health/clark-county-ranks-high-in-std-cases/
HIV/AIDS. (2018, July 05). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/racialethnic/africanamericans/index.html
Human Trafficking in Nevada. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ag.nv.gov/Human_Trafficking/HT_Home/
Lyle, M. (2018, July 18). STDs on the rise nationally and in Nevada. Retrieved from https://www.nevadacurrent.com/2018/06/11/stds-on-the-rise-nationally-and-in-nevada/
Whitaker, I. (2015, April 12). What students are learning in sex ed in Clark County schools. Retrieved from https://lasvegassun.com/news/2015/apr/12/what-students-are-learning-sex-ed-clark-county-sch/
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