Wednesday, 6 May 2015

This Is The Place (For Gonorrhea)

posted on 5/6/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

Utah! A land of virtue, where steeples tower, firmly erect, in every churchyard, and fertile folds dot the foothills. A land of fecundity, leading the nation in average number of offspring per family with children (and, according to my wildly unscientific estimate, in lowest number of adult virgins per comic book convention).

Utah is also one of several states that exclusively offers abstinence-only sex education, a form of sex ed that teaches kids that they should abstain from sex until marriage -- and often offers no more information than that. Abstinence-only sex ed is subsidized by the federal government under section 510 of the Social Security Act, despite the fact that studies have shown that this approach does not decrease rates of unwanted teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

It should come as no surprise then that Utah, a staunchly religious state where any form of public or charter school sex ed curriculum other than an abstinence-only one is banned by law (under both Utah Code 53A-13-101 and, for good measure, Administrative Rule R277-474), is suffering the inevitable consequences of teaching citizens from an early age that condoms don't exist, or, if they do, are the devil's party hats:

Infection rates for a common sexually transmitted disease have skyrocketed in Utah since 2011, according to a report released by the Utah Department of Health. 
Between 2011 and 2014, gonorrhea diagnoses increased among men by 296 percent and among women by 714 percent. Health department STD epidemiologist Joel Hartsell said the increase mirrors national trends but is amplified in Utah, particularly on the Wasatch Front. ... 
[Hartsell] said many states provide money for STD intervention programs, but Utah does not, meaning the health department relies only on federal funding. 

enjoys long walks on the beach, abstinence-only sex ed

Literacy counts, kids, and I'm not just talking about the reading and writing kind. We rely on schools to teach not only this type of literacy, but also to promote numeracy – the ability to understand and do math – in addition to historical literacy and basic scientific knowledge. Currently in Utah schools are failing badly at promoting two other types of literacy that are vital to the welfare of Utahns; financial literacy (which is a post for another day), and sexual literacy.

Sexual literacy is knowledge of the basic and essential elements of sexual hygiene, which is defined as “a branch of hygiene concerned with sex and sexual behavior as they relate to individual and community well-being.” Basic sexual literacy includes topics like sexually transmitted infections and how to avoid them through the use of prophylaxis, where and how often to get tested for STIs, etc. – the very type of knowledge, in other words, that could have prevented rates of sexually transmitted disease from skyrocketing in Utah.

"clap" if you love gonorrhea (get it?)

This type of information is not just beneficial to teens, by the way. As with any type of health education, from the dangers of smoking to the importance of exercise, the habits we learn as young people often shape our behavior as adults. Of course, introducing comprehensive sex ed in Utah will happen on approximately the same day that our state scraps our state-run liquor store system in favor of a free-market approach – perhaps the one type of “privatization” that I support and, coincidentally, the one type of privatization that our Republican legislature does not support. Why teach teens and grown-ups about condom use anyway, when we can blame our state's staggering increase in rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia infection on smartphones?

From KUTV:

Utah has a problem, and nobody wants to talk about it. 
Thanks, in part, to a growing use of “hookup” apps, doctors say they have seen rates of sexually transmitted diseases skyrocket over the past couple years.  
Apps like Tinder, Down and Grindr could be partly responsible for gonorrhea rates in Utah being up in women more than 700 percent, they use as an example.  ...
If you have a smart phone, you can hookup anywhere, anytime. [Lynn Beltran, an epidemiologist at the Salt Lake County STD clinic] notes that the change has been huge for people who are married. “Before, if you were interested in sexual activity outside of marriage, there was a fear factor if you went somewhere you'd be seen,” she says. “Now, you click a few buttons and meet at a hotel." 

A few thoughts about this.

First, I have no doubt that hookup apps are “partly” responsible for Utah's STI rate, in roughly the same way that the human body is “partly” composed of phosphorus (1% – the more you know!). Second, while hookup apps have certainly made anonymous sex slightly easier, finding your next one-night stand or someone to cheat on your partner with on the internet was, I believe, the second thing the internet was ever used for (right behind “porn” but ahead of both “clown jokes” and “batshit crazy conspiracy theories”). Lastly, even if we assume that Ms. Beltran's premise is correct and Tinder is what is spreading the clap like merry hell, the fallout would be significantly mitigated if not entirely eliminated by the use of protection – something that should, again, be taught in schools.

For now it appears that “sex ed causes more teen sex” is a Sincerely Held Religious Belief™ on the part of state legislators, regardless of all evidence to the contrary.

Enjoy your fucking, Utah, and remember to wrap it up – it's an increasingly gross and fetid jungle out there!

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