Once Rare STDs Are Making A Comeback—Here’s What You Need To Know

The rise of the STIs is not a new sequel in the Marvel movie series, it’s the cringe-worthy and extremely itchy reality we’re facing today. As if you needed another reason to keep a condom on hand at all times, we’re now seeing a rise in the same disease and infections that affected Shakespeare and van Gogh— talented guys with terrible trouble below the belt. Here’s everything you need to know.

  1. No one’s applauding for the return of “the clap.” From 2015 to 2016, reported cases of gonorrhea jumped up to almost 20%. Have you ever wanted to know what it’s like to pee lava? The idea of it gives me goosebumps. Worst of all, having it once doesn’t protect you. You can get it again and again. Hopefully you’ll learn your lesson after the first run-in. References of gonorrhea date back to Chinese medical texts from 2600 BC, yet we still haven’t managed to shake it centuries later. The CDC estimates 800,000 new gonorrhea infections occur every year in the US.
  2. You won’t be a fan of catching “the clam.” Cramping and burning and discharge, oh my! Diagnoses of chlamydia surged nearly 5% from 2015 to 2016. As if getting it below the belt is bad enough, it can always infect your throat and eyes. It’s often referred to as a “silent” infection because many people who are infected will not have symptoms. It’s the resting bitch face of STDs.
  3. Let’s get serious about syphilis. Syphilis statistics have jumped up around 18%. What starts as a painless ulcer usually on the genitals, rectum, or mouth is followed by a rash appears on your palms and the soles of your feet. Eventually, if left untreated, the disease can harm your brain and heart.
  4. Syphilis is not a good “welcome to the world” gift. Congenital syphilis, spread from mother to infant, increased by 27.6%. That’s 628 cases too many. Want to start your child’s life off on the right foot? Let them inherit your intelligent mind, calm temperament and stunning good looks, not your nasty STI. When a pregnant woman is infected with syphilis and fails to have it diagnosed and treated, the bacteria can get into her bloodstream and travel through her placenta to her baby. This infection can come in the form of pneumonia or conjunctivitis and will show in the first 10 days of the baby’s life. All it takes is a simple STD test and antibiotic treatment to prevent a ton of heartache in an otherwise joyful time.
  5. This is especially bad news for the ladies. Women have to remember to take a pill every day and all the guy has to do is remember to carry a condom. Guess who’s paying for it in the end? 62% of all chlamydia diagnoses are now made in women ages 15 to 34. Ladies, the next time a guy tries to take off the condom, throw that statistic in his face. Maybe you should also consider running the other way—he doesn’t sound very smart.
  6. It’s even worse news for your fertility. STIs really are the gifts that keep on giving. Even when the fiery, itchy, all around unpleasant symptoms are gone, the aftermath can wreak havoc on your reproductive system. If Chlamydia is left untreated, the fallopian tubes can easily be scarred, which may lead to miscarriage and even death of the woman. Right now, it’s estimated that more than 20,000 US women become infertile each year due to undiagnosed STIs. But guys aren’t in the clear: when left untreated in men, they could become sterile.
  7. Don’t assume antibiotics will have your back. STIs are unpleasant but at least antibiotics will clear it up, right? Not always. Gonorrhea is the Einstein of STIs. The meds once used to treat gonorrhea aren’t working against the freaky superbug strains. There have even been a few cases reported that are completely untreatable.
  8. So, who can we blame for this? For one, that guy who tried to take the condom off without you noticing. Gross. We can also blame Grindr and Tinder for more than just our bad dates. Not only does it enable us to keep the opportunities for sex in the palm of our hands (literally), it keeps it all anonymous. If symptoms of your STI appear in three weeks, you may longer have contact with the person you slept with to let them know they’ve infected you. It will spread faster than a stomach bug on a cruise ship. Another potential cause, ironically, may be greater access to birth control. Women are more likely to have sex without a condom because they are safe from pregnancy. Those with an implant or IUD are about 60% less likely to use condoms than those on the pill.
  9. Just because you don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Gonorrhea and chlamydia can be sneaky AF, as they’re known to lurk in your body with no symptoms. The only way to know if you’re infected is to get tested, then wait by the phone impatiently for your results. Wine helps.
Caitlyn is a freelance writer living in Washington D.C.