As of 2014, chlamydia trachomatis is the most common reportable communicable disease in both men and women in Chicago. However, reported cases of the most common sexually transmitted infections have generally decreased in the past five years; total number of reported chlamydia infections decreased by 7% between 2009-2013 and total number of reported gonorrhea cases decreased by 13% from 2012 to 2013. Nonetheless another STI has remained a prevalent public health threat. Primary and secondary syphilis infections diagnosed in Chicago remain constant, and it persists to disproportionately affect non-Hispanic blacks, men, and men seeking men (MSM). Diagnosed syphilis infections have also proven to significantly affect those between the ages of 20 and 29 years, experiencing an estimated annual increase in infections of 4% since 2009. Geographic distribution of new infections has also provided interesting trends in STI diagnoses; the two community areas with the highest average gonorrhea and chlamydia rates were West Garfield Park and Washington, while the highest average syphilis infection diagnosis rates were located in Edgewater and Avalon Park.
Relatively high rates of STI infection diagnoses have remained a prevalent public health issue in Chicago for a significant number of years and continue to affect thousands of city residents each year. Upon viewing infection diagnosis rates and their relationship to different demographics and community areas within Chicago, it is clear to see that different infections tend to affect similar concentrations of age groups and neighborhoods; those 13 to 24 years old accounted for 65% of gonorrhea cases and 70% of chlamydia cases, while 44% of primary and secondary syphilis cases were among those under age 30. These high infection rates among young people are alarming, especially considering their correlation to certain neighborhoods within the city. As long as infection diagnosis rates persist without signs of decreasing, annual STI infection diagnoses will remain an important public health sustainability issue for these community areas and the greater city of Chicago.
Given the vast majority of annual infections occur for those between the ages of 13 and 24, the negative effects of continuously disinvested public education systems have been made evident by way of consistently high rates of STI infection rates among young people in Chicago. A crucial course of action towards decreasing rates of STI infection, especially for young people within south and west side neighborhoods, would be to increase and enhance sexual and reproductive health education within schools. Cities can prioritize sexual education through a variety of means, regardless if within the classroom or walking down a street. Cities and schools specifically can partner to reduce STI infection rates by enhancing sexual education at all levels of academics. In order to reach out to other demographics, cities also have the power to spread awareness, knowledge, and normalcy through ad campaigns, education services, testing clinics, and other public services.
Stein, Efrat. “Chicago Department of Public Health Launches “Get Tested Chicago” a Syphilis Public Awareness Campaign.” City of Chicago :: Chicago Department of Public Health Launches “Get Tested Chicago” a Syphilis Public Awareness Campaign. N.p., 2011. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.
Chicago Department of Public Health. HIV/STI Surveillance Report, 2014. Chicago, IL: City of Chicago; December 2014.