New cases of sexually transmitted infections are rising among women and African-American heterosexuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC began a national syphilis elimination program in the late 1990s, targeted at African-American heterosexuals, especially women and their babies. As a result, the condition was nearly eradicated as an ongoing health problem in the United States.
But in the last two years, the trend has reversed, said Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.
“The success we’ve been experiencing for a number of years in African-American heterosexual populations, particularly women, is beginning to be eroded,” he said.
Syphilis resurfaced as a danger in 2001, and cases went up by 15.2 percent between 2006 and 2007, the CDC said.
Reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea together surpassed 1.4 million in 2007, the report said. Both of these conditions can cause infertility when left untreated. The CDC will address HIV rates in the United States in a later report.
The rise happens to coincide with the growth of federally funded, abstinence-only programs which claim to promote abstinence by denying teen-agers access to information about disease and pregnancy prevention. Instead, these programs result in unsafe sex and an increased risk of pregnancy and abortion.
Whatever the role of abstinence-only “education,” experts say shame surrounding sexual behavior appears to be contributing to an atmosphere of silence and ignorance among youths-at-risk, parents, and doctors.
According to Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention:
If the parents assume that’s the doctor’s business, or the teacher’s business, and don’t roll up their sleeves and get in there themselves, and if our schools aren’t giving comprehensive education, and if our clergy and other community leaders who are interested in youth well-being aren’t including sexual health on the agenda, we’re going to create missed opportunities.