Sexually transmitted infections are one thing that college students never want to talk about. They’re kind of gross and embarrassing for people, but even more so than that they carry a huge stigma with them that no person, especially a college student, wants to be plagued with. Apparently, this lack of interest and total avoidance of STI’s is also shared by the United States government.
It is no secret that over the past few years, the number of cases of STI’s seen in America has been increasing. According to a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been continuously sharp increases in the annual number of sexually transmitted diseases over the past four years. This year was no different with nearly 2.3 million cases of various diseases reported. However, what may come as a surprise is that as the number of people affected by these infections has gone up, the amount of funding devoted to this cause has gone down. Or maybe that doesn’t surprise you, after all this is America.
Federal funding devoted to sexually transmitted diseases has been dropping for quite some time now. Actually, over the past 15 years, U.S. funding towards this cause has dropped by approximately 40 percent . While this drop in funding may not be the only reason that the rise in STI’s have been so dramatic over the past few years, there is certainly a correlating factor. The real question now is, if people can see the huge rise in prevalence of these diseases, why don’t we do anything about it?
There are many factors that influence the desire for our government to make a change in the way our country’s money is distributed. When it comes to STI’s, it seems one of the biggest problems is awareness. Oftentimes, these diseases go undetected because of their lack of symptoms. Without the devastating symptoms of such diseases, including infertility and birth defects in women and children, as well as fertility issues and susceptibility to disease in men, being visibly apparent many people are less aware of how serious these illnesses are. In fact, the stigma associated with STI’s is usually one of embarrassment or humor, which can often make it difficult to take these diseases seriously. In addition, this stigma and lack of outward symptoms associated with STI’s can mean that many people do not realize (or want to share) that they have an infection until it has already been spread. This factor is also causing the epidemic to spread at an alarming rate.
In addition, less and less people are getting tested every year for these diseases, and many doctors don’t perform the tests unless they are requested. Again, with the stigma associated with STI’s, not many people are willing to walk into their doctor’s office and demand a test for gonorrhea or syphilis. This is just another reason that the diseases are spread undetected, as people are too afraid or embarrassed or even realize they are infected.
However, the issue regarding STI’s that needs the most attention in the US government right now is funding. The fact that funding for this cause has decreased so significantly is showing itself in the numbers. Heidi Swygard, an epidemiologist in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services HIV/STD Prevention and Care Branch, spoke about the fact that falling budgets, coupled with the fact that the demand for action is high, is greatly hurting our country. “There just aren’t the boots on the ground. And if you can’t treat, then you have ongoing transmission in the community.” David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, added to this sentiment and concluding even stronger action needed to be taken, going as far as to say that President Trump should “declare STDs in America a public health crisis.”
There is no doubt that the issue of sexually transmitted infections in America is becoming a greater problem each year. Regardless of whether or not this issue is officially declared a public health crisis, the numbers don’t lie. There needs to be more money put into this cause if we hope to remedy this problem, and create a healthier America.
Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.