Speaking of abstinence education, I tip my hat to Dan Savage, who asks the pertinent question at Slog:
After a decade’s worth of abstinence education—a billion dollar’s worth—should we really be reading headlines like this one ….
Raise a glass, folks, because Americans are moving on up. That headline? “U.S. sets record in sexual disease cases“.
And the winner is … chlamydia!
The numbers, first, according to AP’s Mike Stobbe:
The CDC releases a report each year on chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, three diseases caused by sexually transmitted bacteria.
Chlamydia is the most common. Nearly 1,031,000 cases were reported last year, up from 976,000 the year before.
The count broke the single-year record for reported cases of a sexually transmitted disease, which was 1,013,436 cases of gonorrhea, set in 1978.
Putting those numbers into rates, there were about 349 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2006, up 5.6 percent from the 329 per 100,000 rate in 2005 ….
…. About three-quarters of women infected with chlamydia have no symptoms. Left untreated, the infection can spread and ultimately can lead to infertility. It’s easily treated if caught early.
Health officials believe as many as 2.8 million new cases may actually be occurring each year, he added.
Chlamydia infection rates are more than seven times higher in black women then whites, and more than twice as high in black women than Hispanics. But it’s a risk women of all races should consider, CDC officials said.
The ellipsis did knock out the silver lining: CDC officials think the climb can be partially attributed to better testing. That’s the only upside, though, because there is a long way to go. Delthia Ricks, writing for Newsday, quotes Dr. John Douglas, director of STD prevention at CDC: “We have reason to believe that chlamydia is dramatically underreported.” Dr. Douglas also suggested that the 2006 infections probably number somewhere closer to 2.8 million.
Gonorrhea, meanwhile, having seen a statistical drop in 2004 to its lowest level since tracking began in 1941, is on the rise again. And, here’s the even worse news: there is a superbug—resistant to fluoroquinolones—and officials are not yet sure of its extent. In 2004, the drug-resistant strain came in around 7% of known gonorrhea cases. In 2005, 9%. Of the 358,000 gonorrhea cases reported in 2006, as many as 14% may be drug-resistant.
Syphilis, is up 14%, according to the numbers, representing an increase of around 1,100 cases to the 9,800 or so reported in 2006. Congenital syphilis rose only slightly to 8.5 per 100,000 live births.
And then I remember abstinence educator Pam Stenzel, who reminded in 2003 that sexually transmitted disease is not the enemy. Pardon me, please, if I do not find such notions reassuring.