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Ear to the Ground

Rise in STDs Attributed Almost Entirely to Males

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Posted on Jan 11, 2014
Robert Hruzek (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Why have there been more cases of syphilis and gonorrhea among men than women?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an 11 percent rise in syphilis and a 4 percent increase in gonorrhea cases in 2012 in the U.S. But what does the XY chromosome have to do with these sexually transmitted diseases?

Researchers believe it’s less to do with genes and more to do with social stigma aimed at gay and bisexual men, in addition to difficulties in accessing health care. Salon reports:

[Syphilis and gonorrhea] are curable with antibiotics, but many people do not get tested and so the infections remain untreated and spread.

“We know that having access to high-quality health care is important to controlling and reducing STDs,” Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s STD prevention division, told Bloomberg News. “Some of our more-vulnerable populations don’t have access. There are a number of men who come in to our clinic for confidential services because they’re too embarrassed to see their primary care doctors.”

George W. Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California at San Francisco, agreed that homophobia and cultural stigma are major factors in the spread of disease.

“With most of these populations, having a sexually transmitted disease from having sex with another man is highly stigmatized,” he told Bloomberg. “They’d rather not get tested for HIV, syphilis, or whatever. They don’t want it to show up on their records.”

The CDC’s full report reminds us that the problem does not just affect men, however, as “all Americans have an interest in STD prevention because all communities are impacted by STDs and all individuals directly or indirectly pay for the costs of these diseases.”

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

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