Someone might want to go check on the southeastern United States, they’re not doing so hot lately. The Top Masters in Health Care recently released an interactive infographic detailing various health statistics and ranking them on a state-by-state basis, and the Bible Belt is trending in an unholy way. Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana have the most obese populations, the highest amount of cancer deaths, and the fewest teeth. Along with South Carolina, those states also have the most cases of Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. In the southeast, the gonorrhea rate per 100,000 people is over 100, and the chlamydia rate per 100,000 people is 400 plus.
Translation: the STD numbers in the respective states are high enough to be classified as epidemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 820,000 new cases of gonorrhea—a curable STD—per year in America. Chlamydia is also a curable STD that infects an estimated one million Americans, according to the CDC. Poverty helped explain the obesity, cancer deaths, and lack of teeth in the South, and I’m sure that has some bearing on the STD numbers, but there might be a bigger factor at play for this category: amorous college students.
The four southern states in question are home to popular and storied collegiate institutions like Ole Miss, LSU, the University of Alabama and the University of South Carolina. Each state has a college in the athletic and academic powerhouse Southeastern Conference (SEC). These are powerful universities with large student populations and huge endowments. Since the median age for chlamydia and gonorrhea contraction is 15-24, and college students tend to throw their inhibitions to the wind, the universities in the South are proverbial STD petri dishes.
There are more than 30 colleges in Mississippi, 61 in both South Carolina and Alabama, and 37 in Louisiana. These are meager numbers in terms of the amount of colleges in New York, California, and Texas, but the STD correlation is more about quality than quantity. The institutions in the Bible Belt have affordable tuition and accessible campuses. Given the small geographical size of the states, and the fact that they’re home to the poorest and most uneducated people in the U.S. (just the facts), the tertiary schools in the southeast are proverbial STD breeding grounds.
The bad decisions that take place at universities can be traced to immaturity and alcohol. Free condoms and STD prevention posters in the dorms aren’t going to solve the STD epidemic in the southeast, because safe sex is a personal choice. College kids are young, dumb, and full of…energy, and crude as that saying is, the STD numbers reflect that sentiment. The waiting rooms at college health clinics will always be meccas of anxiety and misery, but university administrations and state health departments will no doubt ramp up STD awareness and prevention efforts.
Take it from a guy who just had to research and write an article about STDs: a simple Google image search of “gonorrhea” and “clamydia” may be the best decision you ever make for your sexual health.