Chinese fire drill

STDs on the rise

Here we are, a mere quarter century after the mania of an AIDS epidemic sent everyone scrambling for their condoms and vowing ever-lasting monogamy, and yet it seems that no one in this country has learned their lesson: Sleeping around just isn't a healthy habit.

Last year, there were more than 1 million reported cases of Chlamydia (known more crudely as "the Clap") in the U.S. - an all-time high. Gonorrhea rates are also on the rise. And so is syphilis. Cases of congenital syphilis - the kind that deforms and kills babies - actually increased for the first time in 15 years.

Three-quarters of women infected with Chlamydia show no symptoms. But when left untreated, this infection can ultimately lead to infertility - a devastating result for an ailment that's easily eradicated when it's caught early.

I'm particularly concerned with the revelation in these reports that a number of gonorrhea cases are being caused by an antibiotic-resistant "superbug." New bacteria that can't be battled with standard treatments are always a cause for worry.

The CDC has tried to put a happy face on these grim statistics, saying that the higher number of reported cases may actually be the result of better and more intensive screening. I don't buy it.

Statistics like these are the mile markers of cultural decline. We have created an atmosphere of permissiveness and acceptance of intolerable behavior not only in society as a whole, but among our youth in particular. Monogamy and abstinence are not punch lines. And today, they needn't even be about good morals, but about good health.

In recent months, I've written (and ranted) about the rising teen pregnancy rate, and a massive ad campaign for Merck's drug Gardasil, encouraging parents to get their young daughters a vaccine to "prevent cervical cancer." (The vaccine targets the human papilloma virus, which can only be spread by sexual contact. Still, you won't see Merck spending a dime to push abstinence, the only real cure for HPV.)

But no one seems to care. Least of all advertisers or TV executives who are continually flooding every available vista of the American landscape with sexually charged images of teens and near-teens. And then everyone sits around and tsk-tsks, shrugging their shoulders as if to say, "hormones will be hormones" while these dangerous sexually transmitted diseases continue to be spread. It's nauseating.

Unfortunately, the fact remains that catching these diseases tends to be a lot more fun than catching a cold or pink eye, which is what can make them so difficult to rein in. It's not trendy to say, but the cold, hard fact is that if you're not having sex, you are at ZERO risk for ANY of these diseases. Need a hint? They're called "STDs" - sexually transmitted diseases. If you're not sexually active, the disease CAN'T be transmitted to you. But this simple reality never seems to dawn on anyone.

Ultimately, it seems that people would rather accept the sexual objectification of our children, and laugh at the "nave" few who tout abstinence as the ultimate solution to the spread of these diseases. STDs are behavioral diseases. And if you avoid the kinds of behavior that causes these maladies, you won't get them. It's as simple as that.

Category: Things NOT to recycle

If the 21st century is truly destined to be "The Chinese Century" as so many trend experts predict, we're in for a fairly disgusting and unhygienic hundred years. This little item should give you an idea of why.

Apparently, the future masters of planet Earth are recycling used condoms, and re- purposing them as cheap hair bands. Yes, you read that right: the Chinese are re-using CONDOMS as fashion items.

If you want to take a moment to go to the restroom and vomit, I'll wait.

This report comes from the Chinese state-run media, and should come as no surprise to anyone who's been following the recent spate of dangerous Chinese imports like lead- paint toys and toxic toothpaste that have found their way into American households. These hair bands have been found in local markets and beauty salons throughout southern China.

The fact that they sell for three cents for a bag of 10 probably accounts for their popularity. So they're saving some money - but at what cost? The condoms may still contain bacteria and viruses in spite of the fact that they've been recycled.

Excuse me. My turn to run to the bathroom.