STD cases in the U.S. exacerbate health crisis
October 14, 2018
From the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, sex has been an intoxicating, yet risky, source of pleasure.
Naked bodies immersed in fits of passion and ecstasy have long been chronicled in folklore, history books and religious manuscripts as different cultures cultivate their interpretation of sex.
Since the dawn of time and mankind’s innate instinct to partake in a bit of the old in-out, in-out, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have lingered in the shadows — spreading indiscriminately.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) 2017 surveillance report, cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia have increased making it the fourth consecutive year that STDs have been on the rise in the U.S.
“The United States continues to have the highest STD rates in the industrialized world,” David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), said. “We are in the midst of an absolute STD public health crisis in this country. It’s a crisis that has been in the making for years.”
The standard bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STI) include gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia. All attack the male and female reproductive organs in the form of discharge, rashes, burning and pelvic pain.
All three venereal diseases can reside in the human body without showing symptoms but can be cured if caught through antibiotic and sulfa drug treatment.
Contra Costa College administrative assistant Elizabeth Bremner, who oversees the Student Wellness Program on campus, said it would be great to make resources and information on STDs more readily available to students, even if it happens anonymously.
“We would love to have a health clinic on campus. In fact (Dean of Students Dennis) Franco and I have tossed around the idea,” she said. “It comes down to funding and finding a place to house something like that.”
Bremner said students are not forthcoming with personal information, but for that rare case the program provides a flier providing information on local free clinics.
Other than that Contra Costa County low-cost medical resource flier, there are no other resources or information on STDs for students on campus.
Associated Student Union President Alexander Walker-Griffin said it would be beneficial for CCC students if they were offered more health information and resources on health issues like STDs, even at the basic level.
“Some people may criticize it, but I think it’s overall important that we do have it, because yes, people are having sex. Let’s just accept the fact, but we need to make sure people are safe,” he said. “Some people may be afraid or don’t know where to go to get STD tests or how to use a condom in general. They need a place to go to learn about it sooner or to get some sort of treatment.”
Gonorrhea, also known as “the clap,” is one of the oldest recorded STDs, dating back to an Act in the English Parliament in 1161.
“Parliament passed a law to reduce the spread of ‘the perilous infirmity of burning,’” author Lester Bivens writes in his series on basic health care.
But sex, in all its lustful glory, had already become a fixation within societies across the globe and was seen as a rite of passage into the world of adulthood.
The first recorded outbreak of syphilis occurred in Europe in 1495 as French troops returning from Italy passed the venereal disease to their wives, girlfriends and prostitutes throughout France.
Known as the “French Disease” until 1504, syphilis swept through Europe via Spanish mercenaries serving King Charles of France.
“When syphilis was first recorded in Europe in 1495, its pustules often covered the body from the head to the knees, caused flesh to fall from people’s faces, and led to death within a few months,” physiologist Jared Diamond wrote in his 1997 book “Guns, Germs, and Steel.”
For centuries gonorrhea and syphilis were thought to be the same disease.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century, after advancements in modern medicine, researchers were able to distinguish the two through reliable diagnostic testing.
According to the latest data provided by the CDC, syphilis diagnoses in the U.S. increased 76 percent from 17,375 cases in 2013, to 30,664 cases in 2017.
Nearly seven in 10 of those infections occurred among men who are gay or bisexual.
U.S. cases of gonorrhea also increased 67 percent over the same time span, rising from 333,004 in 2013 to 555,608 diagnoses in 2017.
Infections among men nearly doubled and cases among women increased for the third year in a row.
Chlamydia, which is the most common STD in the U.S., was discovered unintentionally when three scientists traveled to the island of Java to study the bacteria that causes syphilis.
In 2017 CDC records list more than 1.7 million cases of chlamydia diagnosed in the U.S. — representing a 22 percent increase from 2013.
About 45 percent of those cases were among young women age 15 to 24.
“After decades of declining STD statistics, in recent years we’ve been sliding backward,” the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention Director Gail Bolan said. “All it takes is a simple STD test and antibiotic treatment to prevent this enormous heartache and help assure a healthy start for the next generation of Americans.”
Parasitic STIs, such as trichomoniasis, pubic lice and scabies, which live within the skin and hair, can all be treated with over-the-counter shampoos and ointment such as Malathion (Ovide) and Ivermectin (Stromectol).
STDs, on the other hand, have a more long-term effect and are not as easily washed away.