The LGBT Life Center in Hampton Roads noticed an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.  Over the past six months there has been 254 cases, which is a 20% increase.  The LGBT Life Center is also seeing an increase in HIV with 31 cases in the past five months versus the 28 cases for all of last year. Stacie Walls, the LGBT life center’s CEO, stated that in August, the Center encountered seven different cases of HIV over the span of one week. While this problem is apparent in the Hampton Roads area to the LGBTQ+ community, it has become a commonality across the state of Virginia and the nation for everybody. Some people may not think this issue is a big deal since it is highest amongst people who identify in the LGBTQ+ community but the reason these rates are so high is partially because of the budget cuts in federal funding for sexually transmitted disease and sex education. Only 24 states in the United States require sex education, 21 of those states mandate sex education and HIV education, and from that, only 20 states require that if provided sex and or HIV education, it must be factually correct. Our education system is failing the youth and contributing to the growing number of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV by depriving students of the correct and proper information about sex and sexually transmitted diseases. Some of the reasons people will not get tested is because of lack of education or embarrassment because of the stigma associated with sexually transmitted diseases. If the education system can help students properly protect themselves and identify symptoms by being informed through a sex education program, then the program should be put into place. 

Cuts in federal funding for STDs and sex education has facilitated the rise in STD and HIV cases.  This epidemic does not only affect the LGBTQ+ Community, it effects and puts the health and safety of the entire Nation in jeopardy.  Throughout history, our culture, as a Nation, has been slowly evolving towards inclusion.  According to Meng (2016), inclusion of the LGBT community in society has progressed quicker than any other social justice movement.  “We’re moving toward a condition where the fact of one’s sexual identity just doesn’t matter” (Meng, 2016, n.p.).  While the article and some of the statistics were pulled from the LGBT life center in Hampton roads that does not take away from the increase in sexually transmitted diseases in the state of Virginia which has skyrocketed as well as the increase in STD’s and HIV across the nation. Some people still believe that these diseases still only exist or stem from queer individuals being sexually active when in reality the high group of people in the United states that have HIV are African American women. Whether being apart of the LGBTQ+ community is a choice to someone or not your sexuality should never take away from getting the proper education. Misinformation or rather no information leads to mistakes and some STD’s are life changing permananent mistakes which could all be avoided by providing children with the education they are entitled too. It is simply not enough to assume that parents or someone in a child’s life is teaching them about sex, how to protect themselves, and more importantly teaching them the right information. The only way to decrease the growing rate of STD’s and HIV in the Hampton roads area and on a national level is to fight for legislation change immediately. Changing the requirement of sexual education in schools from optional to mandatory is something that needs to be put in to place immediately because we are only adding to the disadvantage these children would have by not being properly informed and learning how to adequately protect themselves. 

It’s not too late to change the Nation’s way of thinking about STDs and HIV beginning with an informational campaign to address the stigma and encourage prevention through education.  Where better to start than where most young people get their information, the internet and social media.  According to McInroy and Craig (2017), 97% of emerging adults, ages 18-22, use the internet, with 89% of them also using social media.  They also suggest that media enhances the public’s knowledge of the LGBTQ culture while simultaneously providing the LGBTQ Community with a platform where they can openly identify as LGBTQ.  Therefore, this campaign needs to be expanded to include more traditional media like television and radio to capture those individuals that are not internet savvy. Even if schools do not teach about the LGBTQ+ community in school there should still be resources such as pamphlets, websites, or even connections with representatives like people from the LGBT life center in Hampton Roads so that these children can explore and get help on their own if their school will not.

The youth of America attending public schools are owed an adequate and more importantly accurate sexual educational program so that teens are equipped with how to properly protect themselves in order to not add to the growing STD and HIV rate.  Moreover, an advocate is needed to address that abysmal number of States, less than half, that require sex and or HIV education while some don’t even require correct information. The sooner legislation is put into place the sooner, the new generation is informed, the sooner the STD and HIV rate will increases due to better sex education. 

References:

Local health center reports ‘drastic’ increase in STD, HIV rates in Hampton Roads. (2019, September 26). Retrieved from https://wtkr.com/2019/09/26/local-health-center-reports-drastic-increase-in-std-hiv-rates-in-hampton-roads/.

McInroy, L. B., & Craig, S. L. (2017). Perspectives of LGBTQ emerging adults on the depiction and impact of LGBTQ media representation. Journal of Youth Studies, 20(1), 32-46. doi:10.1080/13676261.2016.1184243.

Meng, T. K. (2016). LGBT culture and the mainstreaming of inclusion. Retrieved from https://www.campaignlive.com/article/lgbt-culture-mainstreaming-inclusion/1337226.


My name is Raena Gradford. I’m a senior at Old Dominion University majoring in Comminication with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Women’s Studies. I’m from Richmond, Virginia, and I identify as biracial.