Sept. 29, 2015 - New York City, New York, United States - Participants hold pink Planned Parenthood banner and signs. Activists and directors of Planned Parenthood, NYC, gathered in Foley Square along NYC first lady Chirlane McCray and elected representatives to demonstrate support for the organization. (Credit Image: © Andy Katz/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire)

STD Rates in America Are at an All-Time High

And it DOES affect you.
September 10, 2018
5 mins read

You’d think that the current state of our country would be a major turn off, but apparently not. No matter the political climate, Americans just really love to get it on. This is great in a lot of ways (stress relief, distraction) but it can also have devastating consequences.

The CDC just reported that, for the fourth year in a row, sexually transmitted diseases are being reported at an all-time high. There were nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reported in 2017, which is over 200,000 more cases than the previous record set in 2016.

Chlamydia is still the most commonly reported STD, but gonorrhea has become a major cause for concern with a new strain of the disease called “super gonorrhea.” It kind of sounds like a joke, but it definitely isn’t. Super gonorrhea is much more resistant to antibiotics, and is being spread throughout Europe and Australia. 

All STDs can lead to extremely dangerous complications, such as infertility, complications during pregnancy and increased susceptibility to HIV. 

According to Dr. Bradley Stoner, the medical director of the St. Louis STD/HIV Prevention Training Center at Washington University, we can trace this uptick in STDs back to inadequate funding for the CDC and other publicly funded STD clinics. The dearth in these clinics leads to a lack of “partner notification and outreach, education and awareness,” without which STD rates will only continue to rise.

“With the Affordable Care Act, there was a sense that people are going to have a medical home and you’re not going to need these publicly funded clinics,” Stoner told TIME. But under the Trump administration, these clinics are rapidly closing, leaving patients stranded without the care they need. People end up going to hospital emergency rooms or urgent care clinics “where they may not have the STD expertise” to properly screen and treat infected patients.

You know what would be really crucial and life-saving in this kind of situation? Planned Parenthood. You know whose funding is also being cut? Planned Parenthood. That’s right, white, male, pro-life conservatives. PP does far more than administer abortions. 

After Trump reinstated the Title IX gag rule earlier this year, which requires that overseas NGO organizations receiving federal funding “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations” and makes it so that health care providers can’t even propose an abortion as an option, Planned Parenthood was in danger of losing its federal funding. 

But an un-funded Planned Parenthood would be detrimental to all Americans — men and women, young and old, no matter their income bracket or sexuality or location. Because not only does Planned Parenthood know how to properly screen and treat STDs, it also knows how to protect against them.

“These numbers make it clear that too many people aren’t getting the health care and education they need in order to keep themselves healthy,” said Dr. Gillian Dean, the senior director of medical services at PP, to Vogue. “Even with rising rates of sexually transmitted infections, the Trump-Pence administration is doubling down on its agenda to make it more difficult for people to access preventive care.” 

What we need right now isn’t a brigade of male conservatives complaining about abortion and taking women’s health and reproductive rights into their own hands (actually, we’ll never need that). What we need is for people to see that STDs don’t discriminate; they can affect anyone. And if we want the STD rate record to remain in the past where it belongs, something needs to change. So, please: FUND Planned Parenthood. 

Cameron Andersen, New York University

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Cameron Andersen

New York University
Cultural Anthropology and Gender & Sexuality

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