The Dangers of Sex – Have We Forgotten?
The older baby boomers recall a time when the slogan “Make Love, Not War” encouraged us to connect, express our sexuality, and often feel good with recreational drugs. We thought that era would never end. If we accidentally caught a bacterial infection, we went to the doctor, took the prescribed antibiotics for the required number of days, and we were back in action again. Many of us never gave this a second thought. In fact, even if we had contracted a much more serious infection, such as gonorrhea or syphilis, we and our doctor probably treated it in the same way – with an antibiotic prescription.
Then along came HIV and AIDS. But most heterosexual men and women deluded themselves into believing that this was only a problem for gay men. Although a few heterosexual women reported they had contracted this disease after sexual relations with a bisexual man, most heterosexuals looked the other way, assuming it could not happen to them.
And then there was herpes. Many men and women became plagued with outbreaks of this unpleasant virus. It became necessary to inform one’s partner or potential partner, causing the demise of many relationships. Although herpes may be unpleasant and symptoms may re-occur at any time, it is not life-threatening and does not necessarily affect the quality of one’s life.
Now there is a new and very serious ailment that is causing great concern in the medical community, Hepatitis C. This disease is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the United States. “In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended one-time HCV testing for everyone born between 1945-1965.” But baby boomers have either resisted or totally ignored this request. As one doctor explained “People think it’s telling the world they were IV drug users.”
Hepatitis C can be contracted by sharing drug needles or sexual contact, but those are not the only ways to get infected. The disease may have been contracted years earlier by snorting cocaine (which makes the lining of the nose raw and possibly bleeding, affecting the equipment used). Also, organ transplants and blood transfusions received before 1992 may have been tainted. Even tattoo and body-piercing equipment sometimes contain infected blood.
In a 2013 survey, “42 percent of baby boomers in Miami said they would rather admit to ‘driving under the influence’ than to having hepatitis C, abbreviated HCV.” More than half of the baby boomers surveyed do not see themselves having the risk, “but baby boomers are five times more likely than any other age group” to have hepatitis C.
If diagnosed and treated, hepatitis C can be contained, the symptoms alleviated, and in some cases complete cured. But the first step is to get tested. If you have been single for awhile, recently separated or divorced, concerned about the sexual fidelity of your intimate partner/s, you and your current partners would be well advised to take the test as a diagnostic and preventive measure.
Make love, not dis-ease. Treat your body like the temple that it is, the only one you will have in this lifetime. And encourage your partners to do the same.