By Jonathon Van Maren
In Chapter 2 of my 2016 book The Culture War, I examined the pandemic of sexually transmitted diseases that is currently sweeping North America—albeit unnoticed and unremarked on by most:
The STD epidemic makes headlines occasionally, but not often—and certainly not in proportion to the prevalence of these diseases or the impact on average North Americans. When the Public Health Agency of Canada released a report on “the State of Public Health in Canada” in 2013, they called STDs “the never-ending threat.” The Chief Public Health Officer then began the report by listing off a series of trends that you certainly won’t find taught in high schools:
- Sexually transmitted infections are a significant and increasing public health concern in Canada and worldwide.
- In Canada, reported rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have been steadily rising since the late 1990s.
- Young Canadians have the highest reported rates of sexually transmitted infections; however, increasing numbers of cases are being reported among middle-aged and older adults.
- Untreated sexually transmitted infections can have long-term health outcomes.
- Preventing and reducing the spread and impact of infection involves individual and broader commitments.[i]
Nearly every sexually transmitted disease is on the rise in Canada. Chlamydia rates have increased every single year since 1997, with a 72% increase between 2001 and 2010. Gonorrhea rates increased 53.4% between 2001 and 2010, and have not stopped rising—with rates among females between the age of 15 and 19 years of age being four times the national average. Syphilis rates have skyrocketed, rising 456.7% between 2001 and 2010, with especially dramatic increases among “men who have sex with men.” Additionally, the Public Health Agency of Canada “estimates that 71,200 Canadians were living with HIV infection (including AIDS) in 2011, an 11.4% increase from the 2008 estimate of 64,000.”[ii]
The situation in the United States is even worse. For example, AIDS first surfaced in 1981, and the Center for Disease Control estimates that over 1.8 million people have been infected with HIV since then. That includes the more than 650,000 people who have died from AIDS already, with the homosexual community being particularly ravaged. While HIV rates are levelling off for women, they are still on the rise in men who have sex with men. These facts, published officially by the federal government, never gain much attention.[iii]
And that is only the tip of the iceberg. There are over 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases in the United States every single year. In a country of 318 million people, 110 million men and women have a sexually transmitted disease, resulting in direct medical costs of more than 16 billion dollars annually. Half of these new infections occur in young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Sex education, it turns out, is an abysmal failure.[iv] Sexually transmitted diseases are now more common than the common cold.
Things have gotten much worse in the two years since I wrote those words. In fact, the Center for Disease Control is reporting that sexually transmitted diseases are surging for the fourth straight year—and that inevitably, we are going to find ourselves in a situation where STDs are antibiotic-resistant, leaving us with the potential of an untreatable pandemic of STDs:
New cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis spiked nearly 10 percent in 2017, continuing a four-year trend of rising sexually transmitted diseases fueled by a lack of awareness and changing sexual behavior, federal health officials said Tuesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 2.29 million new cases of these three common yet treatable sexually transmitted diseases were diagnosed in 2017.
The number of new STD cases continued a “steep, sustained increase” since 2013, the CDC reported. The rise in cases is at record levels, but the federal budget has not increased STD program funding since 2013, leaving health departments scrambling to address the problem with fewer resources.
“There is a shocking increase in STDs in America,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors…From 2016 to 2017, cases of primary and secondary syphilis grew more than 10 percent, chlamydia increased nearly 7 percent, and gonorrhea surged nearly 19 percent, according to preliminary CDC figures released Tuesday.
Left untreated, these infections can result in infertility or pregnancy complications or increase the risk of HIV transmission. Federal health officials are particularly troubled by the 67 percent jump in gonorrhea cases since 2013 because the bacterial infection has become resistant to all antibiotics except ceftriaxone. This year, public health officials in England reported a man contracted gonorrhea that resisted the commonly prescribed drug combination of ceftriaxone and azithromycin. Public health officials expect that super-resistant strain will emerge in the USA.
“It’s going to happen,” Harvey said. “It is not a question of if but when.”
Since 2015, the CDC has recommended a single shot of ceftriaxone be combined with an oral dose of azithromycin to treat people with gonorrhea.
Although this two-drug combination has not failed in the USA, the CDC said lab testing confirms that resistance to azithromycin has increased from 1 percent of cases is 2013 to more than 4 percent in 2017. Azithromycin has been used to stall resistance to ceftriaxone.
Experts said many factors have led to the increase in STDs, including a lack of awareness about the seriousness of infection and changing sexual behavior. Medical technology such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a daily medication used to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, have prompted some to no longer use condoms.
Young adults may not fear HIV transmission as the once-deadly virus has become more of a chronic condition that can be managed with medication. Some appear more willing to engage in risky, unprotected sex, which has led to the spread of preventable STDs, officials said.
There are signs that the medical community is not performing all recommended screening, Harvey said. For example, he said, the USA has “virtually eradicated” mother-to-child HIV transmission, but about 1,000 babies are born each year with syphilis. The CDC recommends all pregnant women be tested for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B.
The CDC recommends that all sexually active women under 25 be tested annually for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Gay and bisexual men should be screened at least once each year.
You’ll notice that regardless of how dire the situation becomes, authorities will never suggest that perhaps sexual behavior should be modified in order to avoid some of these diseases. Free will is considered virtually impossible in our sex-driven culture, and so even the suggestion that people be told that by abstaining from sexual activity or from certain sexual practices, that they could avoid sexually transmitted diseases—which seems blatantly obvious—is scoffed away as “unrealistic.” We can apparently end poverty and change the climate, but asking people to behave in a sexually responsible way is simply too much to ask.
And this is one reason that so-called public sex education has been such an utter and abysmal failure by every measurable standard (with the exception of normalizing promiscuity and various sexual behaviors): Because these facts are not being presented.
[i] “The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2013: Infectious Disease—The Never-Ending Threat,” Public Health Agency of Canada (Canada: 2013), accessed May 2, 2016, http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cphorsphc-respcacsp/2013/sti-its-eng.php
[ii] “The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2013: Infectious Disease—The Never-Ending Threat,” Public Health Agency of Canada (Canada: 2013), accessed May 2, 2016, http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cphorsphc-respcacsp/2013/sti-its-eng.php
[iii] “The HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the United States,” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (California: 2014), accessed May 2, 2016, http://kff.org/hivaids/fact-sheet/the-hivaids-epidemic-in-the-united-states/
[iv] Bahar Gholipour, “Hidden STD Epidemic: 110 Million Infections in the US,” Live Science, October 6, 2014, accessed May 2, 2016