A silent epidemic plagues Lubbock County and it is costing you millions of dollars. In some cases its spread knowingly, while others do not even know they have it. Either way, confirmed cases of Sexually Transmitted Diseases are now in every zip code in Lubbock County, with some more than two times the national average.
For the past year, NewsChannel 11 has spoken with experts about teen pregnancy and STD's. We have learned not only is teen pregnancy on the rise, but more and more Lubbock County citizens are now living with an STD. In fact, experts tell us almost 10 percent of the county's teen and adult population has one, which is three times the national average. However, On Tuesday, we meet one person who is trying to stop our increasing numbers, one teen at a time.
She's educated, a family woman and a youth leader. And, in this small Hub City church, 24-year-old, Eilda Riojas battles one of Lubbock's biggest problems. "You can get an STD, things can happen," Riojas said. These are words of experience.
"That was the dumbest thing I have ever done," Riojas added. NewsChannel 11 asked if she even tried asking him before having sex if he had an STD? "No. I didn't," Riojas said. "Did you say, 'do you have a condom?'" we asked. "No," Riojas said. "He said it's OK you won't get pregnant," Riojas added.
Eilda did not get pregnant. Instead, she was left with a lifelong disease. "Oh my gosh, how can this happen. I said what is it? He said it's Genital Herpes," Riojas said. However Eilda is not alone.
"There is a rumor floating around that Lubbock is number one for a number of the STD's. We're not number one. We are close though. We have very, very high rates," Doctor Samuel Prien, a professor in the Ob/Gyn Department at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center said.
Prien has studied sexually transmitted diseases in Lubbock for the last eight years. He says no neighborhood in Lubbock is immune with Chlamydia and Gonorrhea being the most common.
Mary Frances Flores UMC Lab Virology Manager said. "Our percentage rates compared to other hospitals are much higher. Most hospitals run a three to four Chlamydia positive rate and about a one percent Gonorrhea. We run nine percent for Chlamydia and four percent for Gonorrhea,"
Folks at the UMC Lab test a majority of the STD samples gathered in the Hub City. In addition, results from labs like this and others show that Lubbock has two and a half times the national rate of Chlamydia compared to towns our size.
There are other STD's plaguing the county and they too are on the rise. The number of Syphilis cases more than doubled from 2007 to 2008, and that was just in the first four months of this year. Cases of HIV have also increased and those numbers are costly.
With the right treatment, some STD's are curable while others require lifelong treatment. But all affect you as a Lubbock County taxpayer. "Women who have Gonorrhea and Syphilis they tend to have their births earlier," Doctor Prien said.
"Every time a baby is born preterm it's going to end up in the neonatal unit," Prien said. "Tens of thousands to maybe a million dollars that baby is costing to get it out of the neonatal intensive care unit," he added.
This is why Eilda is sharing her story. "It's never going to leave. It is a forever thing. I am going to live with this forever. For one night - for a few minutes," Riojas said. She added, "I have to live with this for the rest of my life. I have to live with this decision."
The City of Lubbock Health Department says there are several factors that contribute to our high STD numbers. Those include a lack of education, lack of parent and community involvement, and a lack of funding and resources.
But the Lubbock Family Council hopes to change that. The group recently launched a new website full of resources for both teens and parents. It tackles STD's, teen pregnancies and low birth weight babies. It also answers questions and gives you direction of where to turn to for support. To learn more, Click Here.
The numbers used in this story do not include Human Papillomavirus or HPV and Genital Herpes. That's because by law folks with those STD's are not required to report their disease.