Everyone has seen the leaflets and heard the preachy speeches, most likely in an uncomfortable health class in high school or a stray flyer appearing on your first-floor table as you scarf down a burrito from Zoca. Statistics about STDs are annoying and they cross your path all of the time, but how often do you internalize their gravity? Uncomfortable subjects can be tucked away because it won’t happen to you. Unfortunately, ignoring the bacteria or viruses growing inside your body will not stop them from growing and thriving inside you.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are about 20 million STD infections in the US every year. The highest number of cases being recorded from age fifteen-twenty-four. Which does not seem shocking because young people are perceived as the most sexually active, when in reality this age group only makes up twenty-five percent of the sexual active population. The insanely high number of STDs being traded around campuses can be accounted for in a few ways.
Firstly, over fifty percent of students surveyed at NYU thought that you could tell if someone had an STD by looking at them or assuming that they are a “clean person”. This idea is shattered by the fact that 80% of infected individuals are completely asymptomatic. Another unexpected fact is that out of the many students who reported having sex under the influence of alcohol, forty-five did not use protection. Although millions of dollars are being poured into sex education across the country, human impulsive seems to be taking over.
Despite the obvious vibe of this article, not only college students are famous for harboring untreated STDs. Pathogens do not discriminate and have had fun with some famous historical figures. Perhaps most interestingly, famous Chicago gangster Al Capone who suffered a severe bacterial infection of Treponema pallidum, better known as Syphilis. This disease can present asymptomatically and live dormant inside the body for up to 20 years after the spreading stages. Eventually it can take up residence in the brain or spinal cord and cause Neurosyphilis, which is where our friend Al Capone’s life got interesting. While in Alcatraz, he was reported to have a strange smile while staring at walls, to silently wear his overcoat while sitting in his cell on hot days, and to make no sense while talking to guards. His wife successfully petitioned to have him officially diagnosed and released. He died at age 48 after a life-long battle with a preventable, and also curable, disease.
If a gangster such as Al Capone was taken down by syphilis, no college student should ignore their sexual health and pretend they are invincible. Playing make-believe will not keep you safe and it certainly cannot stop microbes from invading.