Things That Matter

STD Rates In The US Are At Record Levels And Many Blame Trump’s Policies Targeting Clinics Like Planned Parenthood

For years, we’ve been hearing that Millenials and Gen Z are having less sex with fewer partners than previous generations. They’re also waiting until older than previous generations. However, despite those facts, America’s STD rates are spiraling out of control.

But the numbers are clear: With nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis diagnosed in 2017, rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are at an all-time high in the U.S., according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

A new report from the CDC shows just how extreme the increase in STIs really is.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an annual report revealing that the number of combined reported cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia reached a record high last year. Titled “Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report”, the report noted that in 2018, there were more than 2.4 million syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia infections combined — an increase of more than 100,000 from the previous year.

There was also a 71 percent increase in syphilis cases since 2014, along with a 22 percent increase from 2017 in the number of newborn deaths related to congenital syphilis.

What’s harder to pinpoint, however, is the reason behind those soaring statistics.

On paper, it seems like STD rates should be dropping. Condom use is up. Teenagers and millennials are having less sex with fewer partners than generations past. Stigmas around sexuality and sexual health are beginning to break down. And yet, for four consecutive years, STD rates have broken records. Why?

The problem is complicated, says Dr. Bradley Stoner, medical director of the St. Louis STD/HIV Prevention Training Center at Washington University in St. Louis. But a good portion of it, he says, can be traced back to lackluster funding for federal resources like the CDC, which has seen its budget for STD prevention sit stagnant for almost two decades. Increasing federal funding, he says, could allow organizations like the CDC to hire more people focused on STD prevention, increase public health education campaigns and make testing and treatment resources more accessible.

Without adequate resources, however, the STD prevention community doesn’t have the manpower to take steps that could really work — things like building out systems and procedures for contacting and screening the partners of people who are diagnosed with infections, who may be carrying and spreading STDs without knowing it. Many STDs are asymptomatic, often making it difficult to know if you have one.

The nationwide closure of publicly funded STD clinics hasn’t helped matters, either

While the CDC did not explicitly state it, STI testing is becoming harder to come by for vulnerable populations because free test clinics — including some Planned Parenthood clinics — are being defunded by Trump administration policies. Ironically, the Trump administration’s pro-life policies have put newborn babies at a higher risk for death. Indeed, the Trump administration’s policy decision to cut off Title X funding to health care centers that provide abortion care is resulting in the closing of clinics that don’t offer abortion services, but do offer STD testing.

“While we’ve been battling sky-high STI rates, [Republican] politicians…have spent years relentlessly working to chip away at Ohioans’ reproductive health care,” Kersha Deibel, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, told Vice in September. “This is the world they want to see: one where women lose access to birth control, where information about how to access abortion is held hostage, and where, if you don’t have money, it’s almost impossible to access an STI test or a cancer screening.”

According to the CDC report, defunding public programs is merely one part of a larger problem.

The Center said data suggests there are multiple issues at play: reduced access to STD prevention due to drug use, poverty, and stigma; decreased condom use among gay and bisexual men; and cuts to STD programs at the state and local levels.

“In recent years, more than half of local programs have experienced budget cuts, resulting in clinic closures, reduced screening, staff loss, and reduced patient follow-up and linkage to care services,” the CDC said.

What’s even more wild, is that in 2000 syphilis was nearly eradicated from the US.

Since the recession, some programs were cut because STDs weren’t seen as such a threat, but many of the cut programs didn’t have their funding restored post-recession. Compounded with newfound resources flooding other initiatives, like the Trump administration’s federal budget supporting abstinence-only programs, STD prevention programs have few resources now. According to the National Coalition of STD Directors, more than half of local STD programs have experienced budget cuts.

Yet when reports like this one from the CDC are published, while it is meant to raise awareness, it can often perpetuate the stigma around sexual health and STDs.

Jenelle Marie Pierce, Executive Director of TheSTDProject.com and Spokesperson for PositiveSingles.com, told Salon in an email that “using language like ‘skyrocketing,’ ‘devastating,’ and ‘astronomical,’ for example, is fear-mongering, and it only serves to further stigmatize STIs by extrapolating one component of a giant report without including thoughtful analysis, supportive resources, or content that moves the conversation around STIs forward.”

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People Are Sharing Their Personal Experiences Of Feeling Shame Over Their Bisexuality And It’s Pretty Heartbreaking

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People Are Sharing Their Personal Experiences Of Feeling Shame Over Their Bisexuality And It’s Pretty Heartbreaking

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It’s no secret that more than most sexualities, the bisexual experience is often invalidated and largely stigmatized. Often times, people who are bisexual are forced to shoulder the social stigmas from partners, friends, and family who believe that they are hiding their homosexuality, are sexually promiscuous, and or more likely to spread sexually transmitted diseases.

Curious about the effects of the stereotypes, we scoured Reddit for personal experiences with the sense of shame some people feel attached to their bisexual identity.

Check out what we found in one thread below.

https://www.reddit.com/r/bisexual/comments/4r4ha4/does_anyone_else_feel_shame/

So, I’m bi and finding some videos on the youtubes about bisexuality and started watching videos of people saying being bi doesn’t exist. I also noticed on some apps like grindr and a few others who seemed to have a ‘problem’ with my being bi for some reason. Which makes me feel bad about being bi :c

“I was really insecure about my sexuality for a long time… I still kinda am but I’m mostly ok with it Now. Sometimes I even love it. I’m not really ashamed of it anymore, I’m just incredibly introverted and very private so I’m not open to most people about it. It took me several years to come to terms with my sexuality and accept myself and I still struggle with it sometimes. I used to wish I could just be straight. But now I feel like if there was something I could do to make myself straight, I wouldn’t do it.”-Strawbeerylemonade

“No I don’t feel bad about who I am. If someone doesn’t like me for who I am, I don’t want to date them.”- EnLaSxranko

“There is a lot of misconceptions about us in the gay and straight community. I don’t feel shame but I feel awkward. No matter who I choose to be with I feel I need to explain. I’m currently in an amazing opposite gender relationship with a queer woman who I adore and we encounter bi-phobia. Today I kissed her at Pride. We are in love and queer.
I hold my relationships with my male partners in high regard and will never be ashamed that I loved them (because of their gender). So like it or not, as queer people my love for my girlfriend will be political. oh well. I’m used to it and so is she.”- torontomammasboy

“Kinda. I find it embarrassing for some reason, kinda like if I had a skin condition or something. I actually came out to my parents yesterday and they haven’t disapproved or anything but I feel really weird that they know now. Kinda exposed feeling. It’s weird. I also get the whole shame part. I don’t want to be public about my same sex attractions in the sense that they are almost purely sexual in nature. I would probably not date a guy. I’m ashamed I have sexual feelings for men but really wouldn’t date them (I could do a BFF with benefits thing but it wouldn’t be romantic at all and I don’t think I’d ‘fall in love’).”- CompartmentalizeMyBi

“I’m 25 and am currently having my homophobic mother staying with me until she finds her own place. I’ve came out to her a couple of years ago, but she dismissed it as “foolishness” and has basically been in denial about it ever since. I basically have to tip-toe around her if I want to have another guy in my own apartment. That combined with my own internalized homophobia and biphobia makes it hard not to feel ashamed of my own attractions.” – acethunder21

“No I do not feel any shame. Mostly because I actually don’t give myself any label at all. And why I don’t give myself one is because honestly, I hate labels. For jobs, for relationships, for sexuality. It all is just not something I want to deal with. Now I’m not saying that any of the the labels you give yourself aren’t any real to you. You’re reality is just as personal to you, as mine is to me. And I don’t want to get in the way of how you want to live. And that’s how everyone should really treat each other about their sexuality. I’m nearly 17, (6 days from now) and male. I’m in love with my first, and 7-month boyfriend. A lot of my friends and family know this, and I didn’t feel any different coming out about it to them than when they did not know. When wondering about your sexuality, learn it like you would playing an rpg game. Go out and explore, and find what you like, and make it yours. Hopefully my tired 1:30 am rant meant something. Have a happy night and 4th if your in the good ol’ U.S. Of A like me.”-PopsOnTheRox

“I stopped giving a f*** about what people think eons ago. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has them. Yours is the only one that should matter to you. Make yourself proud and you’ll find people respect and admire it.”-StroppyMantra

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The Trump Administration Just Announced That They’re Banning TikTok Downloads Starting on Sunday

Things That Matter

The Trump Administration Just Announced That They’re Banning TikTok Downloads Starting on Sunday

On Friday, the Trump administration announced that it would be blocking future downloads of social media app TikTok starting on midnight on Sunday.

“At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

The Trump Administraiton is also taking action against the popular messaging and payment app WeChat, banning American companies from hosting the app’s internet traffic or processing transactions for the app (one of its key features).

Both TikTok and WeChat are the two most popular tech exports from China.

via Getty Images

TikTok is a popular video-sharing platform that allows users to share 15-second videos of themselves dancing and lip-syncing to popular music (among other things). The app recently exploded in popularity, racking up 99.8 million downloads in the first six months of 2020.

TikTok and WeChat have both been recent targets of the Trump administration due to their data-collection practices.

TikTok, specifically, has recently come under fire for violating Google privacy policies. TikTok collects and documents massive amounts of data from their users, like videos watched and commented on, location data, device type, and copy-and-paste “clipboard” contents. The app even records people’s keystroke rhythms as they type.

The Trump Administration has long been suspicious of TikTok’s data-collection, speculating that TikTok might be sending the data to the Chinese government.

The Trump administration has argued that such massive amounts of data in the hands of a foreign government is a threat to national security. TikTok denies that they are handing over the data to the Chinese government.

TikTok, for their part, are not hiding their displeasure about the ban, releasing a public statement saying: “We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods.”

This isn’t the first time TikTok has gone toe-to-toe with the Trump administration. The social media company sued the administration in August after Trump signed an executive order enacting broad sanctions against the app. TikTok claimed that the order denied the company of due process.

The TikTok ban is making waves because it marks the first time the U.S. has banned a tech app on the basis of national security concerns.

But some critics are saying that there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason behind the ban. “It just feels to me to be improvisational,” said cyber-security expert Adam Segal.

Both TikTok users and concerned Americans have taken to the internet to express their anger at the Trump administration’s decision.

“Don’t be mistaken folks,” said one Twitter user. “Sunday it will be TikTok. Tomorrow it will be twitter, FB, Instagram…you name it…We must protect free speech!”

Another pointed out the hypocrisy of Trump targeting China when he doesn’t seem to be as concerned about Russia meddling in our internet affairs. “I live in a world where TikTok is a threat to national security but Russian interference in our elections is not,” she said. “This is Trump’s America.”

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