Celebrate the Facts!
Profits drive corporate media, and profits are a function of advertising revenues, so if an article draws clicks or views, corporate media is happy to publish it even if it is misleading. While the ‘if it bleeds it leads’ motto is likely as old as journalism, such sensationalistic coverage obscure and often papers over the facts. Such is valid with press coverage of sexually transmitted infection (STI), as rates vary considerably among demographics. Arguably the health effects correlated with not having sex are much more significant than the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease for older people.
This platform intends to inform through the presentation of facts rather than convince, and this investigation presents the case that intelligent assessment of the data is necessary to assess the risk of STI infection. Unfortunately, media reports tend to be hyperbolic by design, and such messages like to use terms like ‘epidemic’ and ‘soaring’ in blaring headlines, but the occurrence of STIs are highly dependent on age group and demographic. Despite corporate media’s clickbait headlines, STIs are almost unknown among older American populations. Fortunately, the facts are available through the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) Atlas Plus data tool, which provided the STI data presented in this investigation.
A particular case in point is chlamydia. Chlamydia, a foul form of crotch rot, is the most common STI, with about 1.8 million chlamydial infections in 2019, and is the most common STI in the United States. While it is severe, as are all STIs, it’s not permanent, as antibiotics can cure it.
In 2019, the most recent year of data publication, chlamydia, occurred in only about 16,700 Americans above age 55 and only 5,368 white Americans over 55, out of a population of about 95.5 million, or in other words, a minuscule rate for both people. About 0.02% of Americans over the age of 55 had chlamydia in 2019 or a rate of 17.5 per 100,000 population. Thus, the risk of getting chlamydia appears to be very low if one has sex with someone over the age of 55, contrary to inflammatory articles.
Gonorrhea is the second-most prevalent STI in the United States, with about 616,000 cases in 2019, but it follows similar patterns in older American populations. In 2019, 16,333 cases occurred in Americans over age 55, with 5,801 occurring in white Americans over age 55. Thus, about 0.02% of Americans over the age of 55 had gonorrhea in 2019 or a rate of 17.1 per 100,000 population.
Syphilis follows the same patterns as chlamydia. Once feared as a sure death from insanity before the advent of sulfa and antibiotic drugs, syphilis now enjoys popularity in some populations, but it is almost unknown in older Americans. In 2019 there were 2,927 cases of syphilis in people over 55 and 1,571 in white Americans over 55. Only about 0.003% of Americans over the age of 55 had syphilis in 2019 or a rate of 3.06 per 100,000 population.
Interesting facts about other hepatitis and HIV reported to the CDC in 2019:
Other risk data provides good reference context:
Although out of the scope of this investigation, likely the lower STI rates among older Americans are simply due to infrequent sexual activity and lower numbers of individual sexual partners. As discussed in a previous investigation, sexual activity, particularly in older populations, is correlated with good physical and mental health, so the risks from not having sex are arguably more significant than the risks of contracting an STI.
Regardless, reports of ‘epidemic’ and ‘soaring’ STI rates among older populations are simply nonsense and are irresponsible journalism.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.