Op-ed

What’s so spooky about STDs?

As October creeps its way along and we get closer and closer to Halloween, here’s a scary story for you– STDs have reached an all-time high in the US, Facebook has launched a dating app, and the meet-cute is officially dying.

How depressing is that? The Gen-Z love story is going to be one of meeting on Tinder and bonding over a shared diagnosis of chlamydia.

The rapid death of meeting in person is, unfortunately, predictable and understandable. It’s 2019, dating apps are easy and efficient and Gen-Zers don’t like to talk to one another. But what’s not understandable is this national surge of sexually transmitted diseases.

In 2001, the reported rate of primary and secondary syphilis cases in the United States had reached its lowest point since reporting began in 1941. In 2009, the rate of gonorrhea cases had reached a historic low. STDs were being pointed in the direction nonexistence. In 2019, it’s all coming back with a vengeance and there’s no one to blame but ourselves.

The latest maddening news about our country’s STD status came on Oct. 8., when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published their annual surveillance report for 2018. Reported cases of syphilis and gonorrhea have reached their highest numbers since 1991. Syphilis cases in the primary and secondary stages, the most infectious, increased 14% to 35,000 cases, and gonorrhea increased 5% to more than 580,000 cases. Chlamydia has increased to 3% with than 1.7 million cases, the most ever reported to the CDC. And the best part about this news: half of these cases were reported among young people ages 15 to 24 years old – lucky us.

I’m not going to explain the STD causes and effects to you – we all have Google – the main point is that they’re nasty and avoidable. This should not be happening; tools exist to fight these diseases. So, why has there been a sudden increase? According to Elizabeth Torrone, a CDC epidemiologist who worked on the new report, the largest contributors come from socioeconomic factors and a change in the younger generation’s sexual behaviors, and both are infuriating for different reasons. Nationwide there have been federal, state, and local funding cutbacks which directly affect clinic hours, contact tracing, and screening for common STDs. In terms of Gen-Z’s sexual behaviors: there’s been a massive decrease in the use of condoms.

As high schoolers and college kids slink away in shame, I honestly can’t say that I’m surprised. We live in a day and age that possess an extremely toxic dating/hook-up culture – of course something as simple as condoms would become taboo. Welcome to dating in 2019, where young people don’t know of a courting world without Tinder and hook-up swipe right culture. It’s a completely new and nightmarish territory, and safe-sex practices have been one of the many things to get swept up in the crazy. We’ve got a massive group of young adults who are terrified of random encounters and flirting face-to-face, but are a little too comfortable finding strangers online, combined with a tidal wave of very, very easily spread STDs and the reduction of sex-ed classes and health centers. The modern era has changed the way people are introduced, it’s changed how people date, and it’s certainly changed how people think in terms of practicality (condoms, people, please!), themselves, and others.

Emma Bickerstaffe is a third-year student majoring in English writings with a minor in journalism. EB891492@wcupa.edu

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