Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Venereal disease was not eliminated, and sexually transmitted diseases continue to ravage Americans and others in the 1990s. Though penicillin has lived up to its early promise as an effective treatment for syphilis, the number of cases of syphilis has increased since 1956. In addition, millions of Americans suffer from other sexually transmitted diseases, many of which were not known a century or more ago, such as AIDS. By the 1990s, sexually transmitted diseases were among the most common infectious diseases in the United States.
Some sexually transmitted diseases are seen as growing at epidemic rates. For example, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid, which are uncommon in Europe, Japan and Australia, have increased at epidemic rates among certain urban minority populations. A 1980 study found the rate of syphilis was five times higher among blacks than among whites. The Public Health Service reports that as many as 30 million Americans have been affected by genital herpes. Experts have also noted that sexually transmitted disease appears to increase in areas where AIDS is common.
Shifting sexual and marital habits are two factors behind the growth in sexually transmitted disease. Americans are more likely to have sex at an earlier age than they did in years past. They also marry later in life than Americans did two to three decades ago, and their marriages are more likely to end in divorce. These factors make Americans more likely to have many sexual partners over the course of their lives, placing them at greater risk of sexually transmitted disease.
Public health officials report that fear and embarrassment continue to limit the number of people willing to report signs of sexually transmitted disease. Literature from the Public Health Service reminds readers that sexually transmitted diseases "affect men and women of all backgrounds and economic levels."
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