Drug-resistant Gonorrhea raises pandemic threat

Health | Tiffany Owens

Drug-resistant Gonorrhea raises pandemic threat

STD testing lab
Associated Press/Photo by Matt Joyce

Gonorrhea, a highly drug-resistant sexually-transmitted disease, is on the rise in the United Kingdom, causing health officials to worry it might soon explode into a global health threat.

In 2011, UK doctors diagnosed 21,000 cases of gonorrhea, a 25 percent increase. A third of the cases occurred in gay men and another third in people who had already contracted the disease before, according to a report the country’s Health Protection Agency released this week.

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"We are seriously concerned about continuing high levels of gonorrhea transmission and repeat infection," said Gwenda Hughes, the HPA's head of surveillance on sexually transmitted infections. Although the increase in cases is cause for concern, the bigger fear is its resistance to previously effective forms of treatment.

In 2008, scientists found a strain of the disease that was resistant to all recommended antibiotics, according to Reuters. Health officials all over the world have now documented cases of drug-resistant gonorrhea.

In the United State, about 700,000 people have gonorrhea, which if untreated, can cause ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, stillbirths, and infertility in both men and women.

The sobering reality of an untreatable disease is a reminder that the modern push for sexual freedom comes with very real consequences. Currently, 110 million Americans live with an STD, and half of them are between the ages of 15 and 24. Health experts urge an increase in awareness campaigns and for sexually-active adults to use protective measures.

Meanwhile, American abstinence-advocates continue to push for more funding and abstinence programs in schools. In the UK, the abstinence message has a much harder time gaining traction.

Last January, Conservative MP Nadien Dorries presented an abstinence-education program for school-aged girls, but eventually revoked it because of opposition. Angry feminists and pro-abortion activists protested outside Parliament the day she was to present the bill, and critics lambasted the idea as “unevidenced,” “unrealistic”, and “irresponsible.” Nothing similar has come before Parliament since.

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