Understanding the STD Epidemic

In an article entitled “What I didn’t know about Sexual Health,” William Smith writes “I am now three months into my new role as the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors and I have begun to reflect on a few things I did not know previously that have been, well, shocking to me...” According to Smith:

1) “We are on the verge of a highly untreatable gonorrhea epidemic.” In 2008 336,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported in the US and the bacteria that cause gonorrhea have become resistant to all but a single class of antibiotics and may be developing resistance to that antibiotic as well. Gonorrhea causes infertility, crippling arthritis, and organ failure, and makes people more susceptible to HIV.

2) “We are about to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory in the battle against syphilis.” Infections are increasing and a drug resistant form of syphilis is spreading among men who have sex with men (MSM).

3) Mr. Smith is surprised that the pro-sex ed and pro-abortion advocacy groups with which he previously worked were not leading the charge in this battle.

The reason is simple: the STD epidemic is generated by promiscuity among MSM. Those who are promoting “gay” rights and changes in laws on marriage don’t want to draw attention to this unpleasant reality.

For example, an article entitled “Incurable gonorrhea may be next superbug” (available at msnbc.com) doesn’t mention until the 17th paragraph that resistant strains tend to show up first in MSM. Then in discussing the problem of drug resistant syphilis, the articles reports that, “Between 2000 and 2004, the prevalence of azithromycin-resistant syphilis in one San Francisco clinic jumped from zero percent to 56 percent.” The article fails to mention that all those with the drug resistant form of the disease were MSM and 31 percent of them were HIV positive.

Gonorrhea and syphilis are not the only STD developing resistance to antibiotics, drug resistant forms of HIV have also been reported. These could wipe out the progress made in treating the disease.

While the public hears less and less about HIV/AIDS, that is not because the problem has gone away, but because in the U.S. AIDS is a disease of MSM, intravenous drug users and persons who have sex with them. According to the CDC in 2006, 56,300 people were newly infected with HIV and 53 percent of these were MSM.

HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, and syphilis are not the only STDs infecting MSM. According to reports in medical journals, the following diseases are spreading through sexual networks among MSM: Hepatitis A, B and C, herpes (HSV), cancer causing human papiloma virus (HPV), MRSA (otherwise known as the flesh-eating bacteria), Shigellosis, Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV), Chlamydia. Kaposi’s sarcoma has returned, showing up in HIV positive men who have been taking anti-HIV drugs for years.

Those trying to stop the epidemic routinely recommend education and condoms, but after 25 years, it is clear that this strategy has failed. The problem is getting worse, not better. According to the CDC, MSM are 44 to 86 times more likely than exclusively heterosexual men to become HIV positive and 46 to 89 times more likely to become infected with syphilis.

What can be done? First, everything possible should be done to discourage young men from experimenting with sex with men. Adolescents experiencing same-sex attraction need help to understand the reason for their feelings. New studies show that while a young man may be believe he was born that way and can’t change, real change is possible. At the very least adolescents should be encouraged to wait and see. Sometimes same-sex attraction resolves itself.

Boys who have been sexually abused by males sometimes regard the fact that they were picked out as a sign they are gay. It is more likely a sign that they were vulnerable and needy. They require compassionate counseling and should not be encouraged into behavior whose outcome will be exposure to disease.

As Christians, of course, we must go beyond simply warning about the physical consequences and remind young people about the spiritual consequences. The words of St. Paul still apply:

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God and in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” (I Thes. 4: 3-8)

Dale O’Leary is an internationally recognized lecturer and author of “The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality.”

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