How ‘safe’ is safe sex?

By | January 15, 2010

How has Wisconsin fared in reaching these goals? Not very well, according to a Jan. 6 report in the Madison Capital Times.

After an initial drop in the number of teens who reported having sex (from 42 percent in 1999 to 37 percent in 2003), the number jumped to 45 percent in 2007. That figure inched down to 41 percent in 2008, the latest data available.

The other categories were just as dismal.

The state’s goal was to reduce the cases of chlamydia infections from 304 cases per 100,000 people in 2000 to 138 cases per 100,000 in 2010. Instead, the number increased to 371 per 100,000 in 2008 — double the target.

The target for gonorrhea was to reach 63 cases per 100,000 in 2010. The number did drop from 130 in 2000 to 92 in 2005, but in 2007 it was up to 121. Once again, twice as what was targeted.

Syphilis (15 cases in 2003 to 165 in 2007) and HIV cases (407 — more than three times the 2010 target) also spiraled upward.

A disturbing factor with the increases in STDs is the number of cases among teens and young adults. About one-fifth of the 407 HIV cases were among people ages 15 to 24. Forty of the 193 cases of syphilis reported in 2008 were 15- to 24-year-olds. Of the 20,767 residents diagnosed with Chlamydia infections in 2008, more than one-third were teens age 15 to 19 and 37 percent were 20- to 24-year-olds.

Teens accounted for the largest age group that contracted gonorrhea in 2007: 2,034 cases or one-third. Young adults ages 20 to 24 also made up one-third of the cases.

The rate of STDs among teens is a national scourge. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four teenage girls in the U.S. has an STD, and one out of five U.S. teens today will be infected with an STD, compared with one out of 47 of their parents.

A generation ago, there were only two common STDs: syphilis and gonorrhea. Today, more than 25 exist. According to the CDC, there are approximately 19 million new STD infections each year, with nearly half of them among young people 15 to 24 years of age.

The Capital Times also reported that girls suffer from STDs at a higher rate than boys. In 2007, the rate of chlamydia among U.S. females, it reported, was almost three times the rate among males. In Wisconsin, 7,642 cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and genital herpes were reported in 2007 among females ages 15-19, compared with 2,049 cases among male teens.

The numbers are staggering. Imagine the emotional toll on young women. One college co-ed interviewed by the Capital Times described the disgrace.

“It was my shameful secret. I was in shock and terrified. I felt ugly and filthy, and like nobody would ever want to touch me again,” she said.

Accompanying their emotional scars, young woman face physical scars.

“Left untreated, sexually transmitted infections can lead to serious and even deadly complications,” stated the Capital Times report, including pelvic inflammation disease, infertility, cancer, kidney problems, infant mortality and disease, ectopic pregnancies, emotional trauma and increased susceptibility to HIV.

Given these statistics, we have to ask: how has the “safe sex” approach to human sexuality, highlighted by promoting the use of condoms and birth control, been successful? Maybe it’s time for society to re-evaluate this approach. Maybe Pope John Paul II, who gave us a “theology of the body,” knew what he was talking about.

As parents and guardians of our youth, we need to educate ourselves about the dangers of safe sex. We need to share with our youth the tragedies that do occur when human sexuality is reduced to a moment of self satisfaction.

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