by Senator Scott McCoy
Senate District 2
Utah has a dirty little secret. There is a little-known crisis brewing in Utah that nobody seems to want to talk about or acknowledge: Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
Here are the ugly facts. According to a Deseret Morning News story last month, Gonorrhea rates in Utah increased a staggering 195% between 2000 and 2005, from 231 to 896 cases. The jump was nearly five times the increase found in other Western states and comes at a time when the national rate is on the decline. At the same time, Chlamydia cases in Utah increased 110% during the same period.
Not only do STDs have potentially life-threatening effects, if untreated, they impact fertility. According to studies by the World Health Organization, 38% of infertility cases are caused by sexually transmitted diseases. The WHO also notes that STDs are the most avoidable cause of infertility. This fact about the fertility impacts of STDs should get the attention of our family-centric, baby factory of a state. The bottom line is that the STD crisis is not only a health crisis, it is potentially a fertility crisis.
Interestingly, at the same time we are beginning to learn about the STD crisis, we also are finding out that our reliance on abstinence-only sex education is not having any affect on our people’s decisions about whether or not to have sex. A recent study by the Mathematica Policy Institute shows that abstinence-only programs do not increase the number of young adults who wait to have sex.
In Utah, state law mandates abstinence-only education. State law also specifically prohibits the advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices, i.e., condoms.
Now let me connect these dots. So, while we teach abstinence-only which does not reduce the number of young people who have sex, we also ensure that they are not educated about how to protect themselves from STDs, i.e., condoms, which they are getting and spreading with increasing and frightening frequency. Sadly, the consequence to this “head-in-the-sand” approach is that we are putting our young people’s health and their fertility at risk by not equipping them with adequate information to make informed choices about protecting themselves.
Time to wake up Utah.