Climbing STD rates call for new approaches: 2 million new cases of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea

Chloe DeVitis, Asst. Op Ed Editor

      A recent article from CNN revealed studies showing that in 2016 there was an increasing trend of higher STD rates in the United States. With a whopping 2 million more reports of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is struggling to find effective and proactive interventions.

      Chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea are the only bacterial STDs that need to be reported to the CDC by law, so this doesn’t even take all STDs into account. These diseases have the ability to stick around even when you think you’ve gotten rid of them, causing long term damage that can effect fertility, multiple body organs, increased chance of contracting HIV or even death (CNN).

     David Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, was interviewed and asked why these devastating numbers are not deflating. He responded, “Funding cutbacks for prevention, education and healthcare programs, and an ongoing debate about sex education for young people, with cutbacks in that arena, particularly from this administration, and a rise in social media dating apps have all continued to rise” (CNN). With half of the cases reported effecting people from ages 15 to 24, this only makes sense.

     I would say one of the most important factors in the cause of climbing STD rates is the relationship triangle between parents, religious institutions and health professionals. It appears that most parents who tend to be very religious are under the impression that their children will not be having sex until being in a long-term relationship, or even marriage.

     When this type of belief is common among particular areas it affects how and when sex education is taught in schools. Many schools have permission slips to send home to parents, asking them if they permit their children to learn about sex, reproductive health or STDs. If this is about informing kids on safe sex practices to avoid health problems in the future, then why give the choice to rob them of that information? This process typically stems from religious or overprotective parents.

     Health professionals encourage teaching kids at a young age to prevent bad choices that negatively affect their health or the health of others in the future. However, people have different ways of viewing health and safe sex that might differ from health professionals. Religion often effects the way individuals perceive and make choices for their health and this lack of communication is where problems grow.

     With smartphones, dating apps and the Internet in general, there becomes a strong disconnect between how the younger generations are growing up versus how our parents grew up. We see our friends on dating apps, and we see talk about sex on the Internet and on TV. These are some of the reasons why it is not as easy nowadays to fit into the “abstinence only” lifestyle, especially when you get into a relationship.

     There are added pressures in the lives of younger generations to fit in and almost all of them are through our smartphones. When kids are being told one thing by their parents or religious leaders, but another thing by the media and their peers, this can create an identity crisis or feelings of inadequacy.

     Of course, while funding and healthcare also raises difficulties with STDs, it is even more difficult when there is a debate between religious groups and health professionals and their influences on parents. This may very well be an ongoing debate that will never end. The real question is, will there be any new approaches to see these STD numbers decline? Hopefully we will see a solution in the near future.

Chloe is a senior Anthropology and German major. She is the BU Democrats Communications Coordinator and German Club Secretary. She is a staff writer for The Voice