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Venereal Disease

Teen-age Sex-A Crisis for Parents

September Sex


What's  the number one health  problem in the United States?

Gonorrhea. Every year more Americans come down with gonorrhea than any other contagious disease (except, of course, the common cold).  In spite of our super hygienic ultra sanitized  obsession with cleanliness, we are infecting  each other with one of the nastiest of all known diseases at a  record rate According to the Surgeon General  of the  United States, who ought to know about those  things, "Gonorrhea ranks  first among reportable communicable  diseases and is  out of  control."  There are nearly  four million cases  of gonorrhea every year-but that's not the worst part.

What's the worst part?

Just this:  the rate of infection is increasing 12 percent  each year. If that  keeps up (and the population remains stable) in less than eight years every  man, woman and child in our country will be blemished  with gonorrhea. (We won't  be the first-there are  already  some tropical nations  where  the VD infection rate runs over 90 percent.)

Where do these statistics come from?

The U.S. Public Heath Service. The American Social Health Association, The American Medical Association, and other august  bodies. And of course, the Surgeon General, who estimates  that barely 15 percent of the cases of gonorrhea ever find their way into the official statistics. (That means that there is up to six times as much VD  around as the official  reports show.)

Why isn't something done about the problem  of gonorrhea?

That's what a lot of people want to know:

"Doctor, please answer this question  for me. I know that venereal diseases  is ravaging our young people.  I read yesterday that a teen-ager comes down with gonorrhea every sixty  seconds. I also know that so many men and women have gonorrhea  that the government  can't even count  them. What  I don't know is why are billions of dollars spent every year on such relatively rare diseases like cystic fibrosis, muscular  dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis?  Why not concentrate on stamping out a disease that sooner or later is going to infect all of us-before we all get infected?"

That's a good question, particularly since gonorrhea  is a "simple" disease.

What's "simple" about gonorrhea?

"Simple" in the sense that there is an effective  way to diagnose it, to cure it, and to prevent it.  it can be diagnosed by a smear  and/or culture from the penis or cervix, and there are a couple of one-dose antibiotic treatments that effectively  cure it. But there are also some big obstacles that stand in the way of the battle against this form of VD.

What obstacles?

For one thing, the kind of people that get the disease. The three  biggest  targets for gonorrhea in our nation are  teen-agers, non-whites , ad  male homosexuals.  Not by coincidence these are the  three groups with the least  clout in our society.

"I don't pretend to  represent all non-white  citizens, but many brothers  and sisters agree with me.  Instead  of all this jive about  welfare  and all that, how  about getting rid of all the VD that's around? When we were brought  here as salves we were clean people-now make us clean again."

Is VD that common among non-whites?

&Take a look at the figures:

&According  to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's Statistical  Bulletin (updated yearly), the comparison goes like this:

YOUNG WHITE MALES:   about 5 percent  have gonorrhea
YOUNG NON-WHITE MALES:  about 60 percent have gonorrhea

Young  non-white men also have 25 times as much syphilis as young  white men.

Why do non-whites have so much more  VD than whites?

&First of all, they don't actually have that much more VD. The statistics always show less gonorrhea and syphilis for whites because they generally go to private doctors. Non-whites are often treated in public clinics-where every case gets into the record books. To make matters worse the bulk of VD education programs are aimed at the obsessively clean middle-class white consumer-where the rate of VD is the lowest. That's like selling refrigerators to the Eskimos-who, incidentally, have VD problems of their own.

What kind of VD problems do the Eskimos have?

&According to recent figures from the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 6 percent of all Eskimos are infected with gonorrhea-that's one situation where a parka gives no protection. And the Virgin Islands apparently have lost their  virginity too, since over 7 percent of the residents are gonorrhea-ridden.

Atlanta, Georgia, takes the honors as the VD center of our nation, with approximately 15 percent of its citizens afflicted with gonorrhea. Our capitol, Washington, D.C., isn't far behind with an II percent rate of infection.

What about teen-agers and VD?

&Because of fear of discovery many teen-agers avoid  getting treated:

"I am thirteen years old and VD is a very frightening thing to me. Even if I am rather young, a little necking and petting now and then isn't  entirely unknown. Last week I noticed  this teeny-weeny bit of discharge right at my opening. Is treatment  for VD available to everyone?  Do I have to have my parents? Would it be worth my trouble to get examined?"

&Adult attitudes are not always  reassuring:

"Doctor, it is  difficult to understand  how a man of your intelligence and learning can fail to see the connection  between  the present high incidence  of VD and sexual permissiveness. Venereal disease is a punishment. It is nature's retaliation for man's  desecration and  pollution of a body which is meant to be kept clean."

That  brings up the fascinating question  of punishing the unborn infant with congenital syphilis, the innocent wife whose husband brings  gonorrhea home from the sales convention, and those rare folks who get VD without sexual intercourse .  Is the unborn  baby collecting his "punishment'  in advance?

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