Growing Threat from Skyrocketing STDs

The saying often attributed to Einstein says that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Well, just taking a quick glance at recent statistics regarding the number of sexually transmitted diseases in our country, it’s clear that this saying certainly describes the world of denial in which many live.

Our sexually obsessed culture just refuses to admit that perhaps it’s time to call for a change in actual behaviors as opposed to the same old tired insistence for more access to condoms and other artificial contraceptives — as if this scenario has worked so well for us up to this point.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report in late September. The numbers are indeed shocking, but then again maybe not when you think about the way sex is continually marketed to all of us 24/7.

According to the report, more than 2 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in the United States in 2016, the highest number ever. The majority of the new diagnoses (1.6 million) were cases of chlamydia. There were also 470,000 gonorrhea cases, and syphilis rates increased by nearly 18 percent from 2015 to 2016.

“Increases in STDs are a clear warning of a growing threat,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in the report. “STDs are a persistent enemy, growing in number, and outpacing our ability to respond.”

Again, given all of this bad news and given the fact that the only thing ensuring 100 percent safety when it comes to preventing STDs is abstinence, one would think that a little bit of common sense would finally apply when looking at what has indeed become an epidemic and a crisis that is not going away. Maybe there isn’t such a thing as “safe sex” after all.

Maybe there is something to the idea of keeping sexual relations where it was always meant to be: between husband and wife in a monogamous relationship. There’s a concept for all those “experts” out there. Or dare I really throw out something so far from our culture’s worldview of things and suggest seeing what the Catholic Church has to say about all of this? Perish the thought.

But Mermin and his colleagues at the CDC, along with the secular media who never seem to question the obvious, would do well in taking a look at Church teaching and in particular the prophetic writings of Blessed Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae. The encyclical is coming up on its 50th anniversary next year, and yet its message is fresher and more urgent than ever.

As a matter of fact, Paul VI warned that going down the road of artificial contraception would be especially damaging to women and young people. Women would be, among other things, greatly objectified, and young people would be easily tempted. And guess what two groups of people are most greatly impacted by the STD epidemic — in addition to homosexual men — according to this latest report? Yes, women and young adults in their teens and early 20s. Go figure. But Mermin and his colleagues continue the same old song and dance. They’re telling parents and educators once again to talk about “safe and effective ways” to prevent STDs. But those ways again don’t include waiting, heaven forbid, until marriage. Insanity? Given what the research is revealing, that’s putting it mildly.


This column first appeared on OSV Newsweekly. To read Teresa’s latest OSV columns click here.