STDs: Health Danger
Protection during sex is necessary to prevent the spread of STDs. If one should contract an STD, though, they no longer need to live with stigma with the help of international organizations. Music: I Am Running with Moderate Success from Monsterous Vacuum by Chris Zabriski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.
By Caitlyn Huebner
Rate of Sexuality Transmitted Diseases, Infections Rises in America
Editor’s Note: STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) and STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) are used interchangeably. STDs is used mainly in the United States; STIs is used elsewhere.
Dating apps are responsible for more than just finding relationships. Some health officials believe that dating apps like Tinder and Grindr could also be responsible for the recent increase in STD rates. How can an app on someone’s phone be to blame for the increase in STDs? Research has found that those who use such dating apps to find casual sexual partners, in particular men seeking men, present themselves with more risks than non-app users. This is because dating app users have reported having a greater number of partners and engaging in more frequent unprotected sex.
There are others, however, who highly disagree with this argument. They believe that correlation does not equal causation. Or in other words, just because STD rates have increased as dating apps have become more popular, that does not automatically mean that these apps are solely to blame.
Justin Lehmiller, the director of the social psychology program at Ball State University, sees blaming dating apps an easy scapegoat for what he believes could also be leading to the recent increase in STDs.
Created by Caitlyn Huebner
Lehmiller believes that STD increases can be linked to the sudden increase in testing, better detection, better treatment options and the overall increase in sexual partners both on and offline.
Natalya Mason, education outreach coordinator for Saskatoon Sexual Health, agrees with Lehmiller.
“We might be seeing more STIs because more people are aware of the fact that they need to be getting tested,” Mason said. “More people are getting tested and more people are getting treated. It’s just more common in general for a doctor to be recommending that someone gets tested for STIs where that wasn’t something that happened in the past.”
Over the past 25 years, a lot has changed with the procedure for STD screenings. “People only used to get tested if they were showing symptoms, whereas now we just encourage it regularly,” Mason said. The information from the Center for Disease Control backs up Mason’s argument.
In 1993, the CDC provided a lengthy report on how STDs should be screened. This report gave specific testing recommendations for each type of STD when it showed signs or symptoms. Now, as reported in April 2017, the CDC has a much more precise recommendation for STD screenings. This now includes annual screenings for most types of STDs and for most sexually active individuals over the age of 13.
Geography is another reason why STD rates have increased over the years. Christopher Kupchik, executive director for Caring Communities, experiences first-hand how geography can affect STDs.
“We are in a part of the state that is still incredibly rural,” Kupchik said. “People have to go out of the area. The distance inhibits people from going out of the area. They don’t want to go because it’s the distance, they don’t have a car, so what do they do? They just don’t do [treatment], and so the disease spreads.”
Caring Communities is a non-profit HIV/AIDS organization. They were founded in 1994 as a grassroots organization to help locals in North East and North Central Pennsylvania who were infected with HIV/AIDS. Since then, Kupchik explained, their services have extended to cover assistance for Hepatitis C, syphilis, and further testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS at their clinics in Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, Bloomsburg and Towanda, Pennsylvania.
Kupchik has more to worry about than just the rising STD rates. He has to worry about how to get those at risk to the clinics for information. He also has to trouble over how to get those infected with HIV/AIDS or other STDs to the clinics for treatment. This idea of geography playing a role in the increase in STDs is something all too common for Kupchik and everyone else at Caring Communities.
“Our geography [Northeast and Central Pennsylvania], unlike say the Philadelphia Area or, you know, Atlantic City or New York City…a lot of the times, you know, HIV/AIDS services [is] a one-stop-shop,” Kupchik said. “People don’t have to walk very far. They get everything they want in a block radius. Well, obviously for us that’s not the case.”
Kupchik, as previously mentioned, sees the lack of transportation as another factor in the geography issue.
“The vast majority of our 12 county service area, [has] no public transportation,” Kupchik said. “And how about this, there’s no Ubers. We’re astounded by that!”
Mason also struggles with geography when it comes to STDs. Saskatchewan, the providence in Canada she is residing and working in, is lagging behind according to Mason. While she does not have 100 percent certainty, she believes that the size of the providence contributes to high STD and HIV rates.
“Saskatchewan is such a large providence that if you don’t live in the two main centers you could be as far away as like six hours from a sexual health clinic,” Mason said. “So, you know, geographical barriers…create bad outcomes for people.”
These geographical issues extend beyond getting clients the proper treatment. The geography of Pennsylvania, especially the rural areas, affects how conservative the state is in general, but also with treatment services.
“When I go to national conferences and I talk to my colleagues in Florida by the Miami area, or I talk to people from Los Angeles, or you name it, they are literally 10 to 15 years ahead,” Kupchick said. “Some of the technologies they are using to conduct tests [is] an example for your sexual health. Whether it be an HIV test, the syphilis tests or the STD tests, we are behind in that. And I think that you know, for that reason, it is important for us to push this idea that sexual health is incredibly important.”
Whether it is the dating apps, the geography, something else or a mixture of all, the rise in STDs should be a forefront of information to all.
“So that, for me, underscores the need for us to really focus on sexual health,” Kupchik said. “If we don’t, we’re not going to be able to take advantage of the types of technologies available that could help people live longer, healthier lives.”
By Caitlyn Huebner