CommunityPam's House Blend

Shut up, close your eyes and knock boots

Apparently that’s what a whole lot of folks are doing, according to a MSNBC.com/Zogby International poll of 56,000 adult men and women. They are throwing caution to the wind, and it’s no wonder the rates of STDs are skyrocketing. And it can’t all be blamed on randy young people, since the participants were age 18-70.

The survey, which was released Monday, found that while a majority of the survey participants consider themselves knowledgeable about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, many are in denial when it comes to sex with someone new.

…Charles Ebel, vice president of health program resources at the American Social Health Association, says the stigma surrounding sexual infections results in many people being too afraid to be straightforward about their sexual history.

“Being able to talk about it is a huge problem,” he says. “At the heart of it is the fear of rejection; it’s the fear of being labeled undesirable.”

…Julius Schachter, editor of the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases and a professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, says people often don’t believe their partners are at risk, particularly if a person isn’t gay or using intravenous drugs.

“They say, ‘I’m sleeping with a guy from the office or someone I met at a bar and he’s cute,’ ” Schachter says.

Men tend to think they would never catch something from a woman, he says. Overall, adds Schachter, “it’s a failure to come to grips.”

Other interesting tidbits…

* 48 percent of women claim to always check STD status, compared with just 33 percent of men.
* African-Americans (44 percent) are more likely to have the conversation than whites or Hispanics (38 percent and 40 percent, respectively).
* 50 percent of the participants are concerned about contracting herpes from oral sex.
* But 42 percent don’t know or aren’t even sure of their current partner’s HIV status.

* Nearly 25 percent of men and and 13 percent of women reported having more than 25 partners in their lifetimes.
* Women were slightly more likely than men to have between six and 10 partners.
* 34 percent of men and 38 percent of women say they’ve had one to five partners.

And, not surprisingly (but sadly), age, education and income reflect different choices in the group studied.

While almost half of those with less than a high school degree never discuss STDs with a new partner, this group also was nine times more likely than college graduates to have paid someone for sex.

“The older you are and the more money you make, the less likely you are to engage in risky sexual behavior,” says Fritz Wentzel, a spokesperson for Zogby.

I’m wondering about the region of the country some of these people are from, particularly where there is abstinence-only education and a certain level of bible-beating that discourages open discussion about sex generally, and safer sexual practices specifically.

Thanks to Holly for the pointer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding