Like all other diseases, sexually transmitted diseases also follow certain disease patterns. These disease patterns can vary tremendously across different ethnicities.
While sexually transmitted diseases do not discriminate between ethnicities on their own, there are tremendous social differences between different ethnic groups, which put some groups at a greater risk of acquiring STDs than others. These differences are further fueled by ever-worsening disparities between the social lifestyle of various ethnic groups, their outreach to healthcare systems, and the discrimination they face within their communities. All these factors combine to marginalize certain communities and increase their disease burden.
Research suggests that black and Latino ethnic groups are more affected by the rise in STD cases as these populations make up the bulk of the total number. These populations are affected so much more than their counterparts are described in detail below.
WHICH ETHNIC GROUPS HAVE THE HIGHEST STD RATES?
According to research, the non-Hispanic black population is at a much greater risk of acquiring STDs than Hispanic and non-Hispanic white populations. Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic populations are at a greater risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases than any other demographic in the United States.
For example, in 2020, the prevalence of primary and secondary syphilis among the non-Hispanic black population was around 59%. Compare this prevalence rate to the non-Hispanic white population, barely around 31%.
In the same year, the non-Hispanic black population accounted for 6,961 cases of chlamydia, compared to only 3,415 cases among the non-Hispanic white population.
Similar statistics can be seen when it comes to gonorrhea as well. In 2018, gonorrhea cases were almost 7 times higher in African American population than in any other ethnic group in the United States. The rate of gonorrhea infection among black females was also 6.9 times higher than any other ethnic minority.
According to the CDC, in 2018, the African American population in the United States accounted for nearly 42% of the total cases of HIV reported. Among these, 31% were young and adult male African Americans, and 11% were female African Americans.
In the same year, the African American population alone accounted for nearly 43% of the total number of deaths among patients who had HIV! Research has also found that the non-Hispanic black population is less likely to be linked with care, to receive healthcare, and receive antiretroviral therapy than any other ethnic group.
The disparity in the number of cases among the black and white populations is stretched across all age groups. For example, the study claims that the rate of congenital syphilis in newborns in the black community increased by more than 100% (almost 126.7%) from 2014 to 2018.
From all the statistics stated above, it is clear that the non-Hispanic black and Hispanic minority are affected by STDs more than the non-Hispanic white population in the United States. The reasons why this disparity exists are described in the next section.
WHY ARE CERTAIN ETHNIC GROUPS AFFECTED MORE BY STDS?
As mentioned before, strong disparities remain among different ethnic groups concerning STD exposure, infections, and access to treatment. These disparities, however, are not present due to a direct relation of ethnic minorities with high-risk behaviors but rather due to the social inequalities present among different social classes.
For example, this study reveals a high prevalence of chlamydia among the black population. However, the same study explored this relation and concluded that individual risk behaviors did not affect or alter the strong propensity of the black population to acquire chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Suppose individual risk behaviors do not significantly influence this direct relation between STD diagnosis and ethnic minorities. In that case, social differences must play a huge role in propelling this problem further.
Social conditions more likely to cause these huge disparities among ethnic groups include poverty, fewer jobs, low education levels, lack of access to healthcare, and a lack of representation. All of these social conditions combine to create one-sided social conditions that seldom incline toward ethnic minorities.
Poverty has a direct relation to an increased number of diagnosed cases of sexually transmitted diseases. Individuals living below the poverty line are less likely to receive quality healthcare. As a result, suboptimal healthcare does not provide these individuals with any substantial health benefits and also delays or even completely ignores most of their basic medical needs.
Discrimination is another huge factor that acts as a deterrent for ethnic minorities from receiving quality healthcare. Individuals from ethnic minorities may not be willing to report their sexual symptoms and may also not be entirely willing to discuss their conditions with healthcare providers simply due to the fear of being called out and being discriminated against.
In a community that is already highly affected by sexually transmitted diseases, the odds of individuals ending up with sexual partners who have an STD are very high. This is the reason why ethnic minorities such as the African American population are stuck in a self-propelling STD cycle.
HOW CAN THIS DISPARITY BETWEEN ETHNIC GROUPS BE IMPROVED?
Health equity refers to equity in healthcare delivery regardless of a person's ethnic background. True health equity describes a situation where no minorities are at a greater risk of developing certain disease processes than other ethnic groups unless otherwise propagated by their individual high-risk behaviors.
It is very important to eliminate these huge gaps in healthcare delivery across different ethnic groups if true health equity is to be achieved. Otherwise, there will always be communities that will be marginalized, pressured, and left alone to deal with the major burden of the disease itself.
It is important to understand that health equity can only be achieved when social factors that create huge gaps in delivering quality healthcare among different ethnic groups are eliminated.
Strong social reforms are required to eliminate social differences between ethnic groups and merge different social classes to unify individual population groups in one social model. Universal healthcare access must be ensured for all ethnic groups, including ethnic minorities.
Community outreach programs are also needed to improve healthcare delivery to all ethnic minorities and enhance the access of the minorities to quality healthcare in their local area. Government-backed resource drives may also be helpful in limiting this huge disparity in healthcare deliverance across ethnic groups.
An improved representation of suppressed ethnic minorities in the healthcare system may also improve the trust between ethnic minorities and their local healthcare systems. The black population, for example, would find it way more comfortable if the physician they were about to discuss their sexual health was also from their community.
Other reforms such as widespread free STD detection and treatment drives may also improve community participation and local STD statistics among ethnic minorities.
As indicated by several statistics cited here, there is a huge gap in the quality of healthcare delivery among several ethnic groups. This gap influences how different ethnic groups are affected by sexually transmitted diseases and is also responsible for the largely one-sided inclination towards a high number of diagnosed STD cases among the African American population.
This disparity is not a direct product of individual risk behaviors but rather an amalgamation of various social factors. These social factors include poverty, poor access to quality healthcare, social discrimination, and widespread STD spread among ethnic minorities.
These social influences not only allow for a greater risk of STD transmission among certain ethnic minority groups but also increase the risk of morbidity and mortality among these ethnic groups from sexually transmitted diseases. This increased risk of morbidity and mortality is not limited to the adult population only but affects individuals across all age groups, including neonates as well.
Mass reforms are needed to eliminate the disparity between ethnic groups and the subsequent differences in the quality of healthcare deliverance. Beneficial reforms may include those at the individual, community, and even at the government level.