Nothing Beats Abstinence & Condom Use, But That’s Not the Whole Story
Public health officials properly stress abstinence from sex and condom use as a way to address the super high chlamydia STD rate in African Americans, but little is said about the impact of improving our nutrition. Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease and is ONLY transmitted by having sex so the clear solution is not having sex or blocking the exchange of bodily fluids (condoms).
So what about this topic is so complicated?
African Americans have slightly more sexual encounters overall than members of other racial groups, and Black men have the highest number of sexual partners. That many partners expose them to a higher chance of catching and spreading a sexually transmitted disease (STD). That drives a lot of the increased rate of STDs in the Black community, but not all. The graph below shows that single White men (the orange bars) have the highest amount of “no” and “one partner” but Black men (the red bars) have more 2-, 3-, and 4+ partners.
Single Black women (the red bars) show a similar pattern with the lowest “no partner” and second highest “one partner” but then the highest “2-, 3-, 4+ partners.” Hispanic Latino women (the blue bars) have the lowest multiple partner profile and the highest single partner profile.
The point of these graphs is THE DIFFERENCE between the race or ethnicities is not great for any of these categories. The bars, while different, are not that different. As you look at the following STD graph, you will see more dramatic differences with African Americans.
Data also shows that African American men have the highest condom use. The article below examined codon use by race and the results even surprised the authors. Higher condom use should lead to lowerSTD rates.
If African Americans have only a slightly higher rate of having sex and a higher condom use, why are the STD rates off the charts? The answer is found in our poor nutrition which leads to poorer health which leads to a greater risk for CATCHING an infection . . . including an STD.
As I have written in the past, African Americans have the HIGHEST vitamin D deficiencies and the article shown above reviews how vitamin D is important for a highly functioning immune system. Having the highest rate of low vitamin D could be driving some of these out-of-control STD rates.
African Americans have, by far, the highest rate of the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia, having over six times the rate of Whites. Data shows that communities of color make up the vast majority of infections.
Asian Americans have the longest life expectancy and one of the best overall diets and have the lowest rates of chlamydia infections at half the rates of White Americans and twelve times less than Blacks.
Chlamydia Rates High in Black Lesbian & Bisexual Women
A study from the University of Alabama looked at chlamydia STD infection rates in African American women who only had sex with women and again found surprisingly high rates of chlamydia. However, these rates were statistically lower than women who have sex with men. Another study from Seattle looked at data from family planning clinics and also found high rates of chlamydia infections in women reporting exclusively “same-sex behaviors.”
It is well known that men who have sex with men have high rates of STDs, but many women who have sex exclusively with women are unaware of this very real risk.
Let’s learn a little bit more about this highly infectious sexually transmitted disease.
Chlamydia is the MOST common STD in the WORLD
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country (and the world) and is caused by a bacteria known as chlamydia trachomatis. Most women (about three in four) have no symptoms or indication that they are infected. Not having symptoms means they don’t know they are infected, and they don’t know to get it treated. Those with symptoms notice an increased vaginal discharge (increased fluid), pain with peeing, pain with sex, or increased bleeding after sex.
If chlamydia is left untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (also called PID), an emergency situation requiring immediate attention. If PID goes untreated, it could impact a woman’s ability to have children. The graph below shows the occurrence of chlamydia in men (purple) and women (orange) per 100,000 cases in the US by their age (listed in the center column).
Chlamydia in Men
In men, having symptoms with a chlamydia infection is more common, and they may notice pain with peeing, a white, cloudy or watery discharge (fluid) from their penis, burning or itching in their urethra, or pain in their testicles (genitals or “balls”). And again, if left untreated, chlamydia can cause more serious infections in men too.
Much More Chlamydia Infections in Younger Black Girls
The overall occurrence of chlamydia cases in African Americans in the United States is by far the highest and over six times the rate of White people. The rate of these chlamydia cases in Black women is 5 times higher than White women. The chlamydia cases were highest for Blacks aged 15 to 24 years old.
Black Women Have a Higher Rate Than Black Men
Overall, Black women have a much higher rate of chlamydia than Black men. That is because women usually don’t have symptoms until they have had chlamydia for a longer time. Black women aged 20 to 24 have the highest risk. The second highest risk is in teen women 15 to 19 years old. Data also show these younger Black women have the worst nutrition. Poor nutrition leads to poor health and a poor immune system and makes you more prone to infections, including STDs.
STD Rates Go Down With Age
As we age, the risk for all sexually transmitted diseases goes down significantly. Black women aged 20 to 24 have twice the rate of Black men of the same age. Black women in their late teens have three times the infections that Black men of the same age.
Among males aged 15–19 years, the rate of reported chlamydia cases among Blacks was 9 times the rate among Whites. The rate of chlamydia cases for Black males aged 20–24 years was 5 times the rate among White males. Black men over 35 consistently have higher rates of chlamydia than Black women over 35.
Nutrition Goes Up With Age
Comparing the nutrition of younger Black men and women, we see a similar pattern of diets lacking vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and more. As they age, diets improve, and the infection rates decrease. Overall older Black men and women eat more fruit and vegetables . . . and they take more multivitamins and other supplements.
The moral of this story is we are missing some of what contributes to the high STD rates in African Americans . . . their nutrition. In addition to stressing abstinence and condom use, we also need to ask “When was the last time you had a bowl of fresh fruit?”
Greg Hall, MD is a physician, author, speaker, inventor, professor, and public health professional, specializing in urban health and the clinical care of African Americans. Dr. Hall’s extensive research in the care of African Americans lead to the development of GNetX Sequence Multivitamins a supplement developed to support African American needs. Most recently, Dr. Hall established the National Institute for African American Health, which is a nonprofit designed to promote health-related education, support students interested in a career in medicine, and serve as an advocate for African American patients. You can keep in touch with Dr. Hall by tuning into his Better Black Health Podcast where he covers Black American health topics.