Ignoring the epidemic

For some time now, we have been aware of and explaining in our Train the Teacher sessions about the growing resistance of some STDs to the current treatment methods. Last week this article on the resistance trend of gonorrhea surfaced. While I was pleased that the article itself made it clear the trouble that lie ahead, after researching into the organization that produced the highlighted image…I found myself yet again disturbed by the same old status quo advice. The name ‘sexgerms’ gave a negative connotation, so I hoped initially that it would take a more serious approach to the reality of the epidemic on the horizon (if one already didn’t call 20 million new yearly infections an epidemic). But alas, quickly I realized that this new website, hosted Alberta Health Services, was yet another attempt to ignore better medical judgement, common sense, and gloss over the seriousness of a rapidly growing problem with the same old glossy and ‘fun’ facade that has been the trend among sexual health platforms. Even worse, rather than the first and foremost message being that, even with condoms, one has an extremely high chance of contracting an std, they continue to act as if condoms are a miraculous device that will save you from all your troubles. The statements eluding to the risks still involved, even when using a condom, are minimal and almost entirely lost amid the flashing lights of claims of how ‘safe’ you will be by simply talking to your partner, getting tested regularly, and wearing a condom. At least they have something on abstinence, but it’s tucked away under the condoms subheading all the way at the bottom of the list. And while they expect people to be responsible and show self control when it comes to using condoms, ‘some people’ sexgerms.com claims, abstinence ‘is just not a viable option’.

Despite a growing blasé attitude towards STDs, this is no matter to ignore or take lightly. If you are sexually active with multiple partners over your lifetime, you are almost guaranteed to get an STD at some point. That std will potential cause infertility for women, it will definitely cost money to treat (whether by you or by taxpayers), it will be embarrassing, might deter the love of your life from dating you, and in a worst case scenario it could cause a painful death. Condoms reduce this risk, but if trends continue as they are, more STDs will continue to be discovered and they will be stronger and less treatable, decreasing the effectiveness of condoms even further. The concept of ‘safe’ sex outside of a committed, monogamous relationship is nothing but a myth. How is merely minimizing/reducing risk the same as being safe? Doesn’t the word ‘safe’ imply the assumption of freedom from all risk? To call something safe which is actually still exposing oneself to high risk is a long cry from safe. Is a smoker safe from lung cancer if he smokes filtered cigarettes? At least there is some eluding to this from sexgerms.com, by way of a heading titled ‘minimize your risk’, but again, the actual content indicates that minimizing is the same thing as being protected and safe.

Let’s have an honest conversation about the risks involved with sexual activity outside of a committed, monogamous relationship. Let’s take a deeper look into why we are facing treatment resistant strands of STDs. Let’s encourage and expect abstinence from behaviors that are dangerous for ourselves and others. Abstinence is ALWAYS a viable option and the ONLY current way to eradicate this epidemic.