You’ve seen the images in newspapers and on television. Frightened residents of Beijing, Toronto and Hong Kong don masks as their only means of protection against severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.
At least 507 people have died from the disease and more than 7,000 are infected worldwide. The World Health Organization, WHO, now estimates the SARS death rate is between 14 to 15 percent. And while thousands of officials work to contain and eliminate the disease, this mysterious malady has not only left its mark, it’s taken parts of the world by storm.
SARS and fear of SARS is causing one of the worst economic crises in Southeast Asia. With restaurants, hotels, airlines and cinemas servicing fewer customers, the economies of Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan haven’t just stopped growing they’ve started shrinking.
Health officials have taken extraordinary measures to contain the disease, quarantining hospitals with SARS patients, screening travelers and closing reservoirs to protect the water supply. Hong Kong recently announced a new research center to study SARS and Chinese authorities revoked the licenses of two doctors for refusing to attend SARS prevention meetings and refusing to see patients with fevers.
Unless the number of deaths falls drastically worldwide, SARS will be placed among infectious diseases with the highest death rates.
No one knows the cause. No one knows the cure.
Now imagine for a moment that an outbreak of SARS is detected primarily among American teenagers. Public officials quarantine thousands of high schools and middle schools while medical teams are dispatched to convert the schools into wards. Hundreds of teens die as fear grips the nation. Families and loved ones build makeshift memorials outside schools while Congress passes emergency legislation to deal with the epidemic.
Now imagine that the Centers for Disease Control discovers that SARS is related to sexual health and that if teenagers will simply stop having sex before marriage, the disease can be completely eradicated and lives can be saved.
What would we do?
Would we commit federal dollars to encourage teens to abstain from sex, explaining that their lives are at stake? Or would we be divided, wanting to save their lives, but also wanting to preserve their freedom to explore their sexuality? Would Congress continue to funnel taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood and their ‘have-sex-today-we’ll-take-care-of-the-consequences-tomorrow’ message to teens? Or would they redirect those funds to abstinence programs?
The fact is, SARS has not broken out in American high schools and middle schools. Health officials are not quarantining school campuses and the Center for Disease Control is not focusing the majority of its attention on America’s youth.
But something just as dangerous has gripped our teenagers and it is related to their decision to have sex before marriage. The culprit is sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, and health officials have called it “a hidden epidemic.”
Every day, more than 8,000 teenagers become infected with a new STD, some of them incurable. One out of every four sexually active teens is living with an STD at this moment, but 70 percent of them have never been tested for STDs.
But can a person die from STDs?
There are currently 80 to 100 strains of human papilloma virus, or HPV, which is the most common STD and causes 99.7 percent of all cervical cancers. Kids are getting cancer from having sex and dying.
But what about condoms?
The National Institutes of Health, or NIH, declared that there was not enough evidence to determine that male latex condoms were effective in reducing the risk of most sexually transmitted diseases. The NIH’s Condom Report stated “condoms have no impact on the risk of sexual transmission of human papilloma virus in women.”
The incubation period for SARS is between ten to fourteen days. The incubation period for some STDs could be as much as ten years.
Perhaps the greatest SARS success story is Vietnam, which WHO declared to be the first nation to contain and eliminate the disease. Virtually the entire government was mobilized to fight SARS, including the departments of transportation, customs, finance, education, the interior and the medical community. Officials were mandated to file daily reports while health experts tracked down and closely monitored hundreds of people who had been exposed to SARS patients.
Imagine if our government took the same approach to STDs. Imagine health experts tracking down teenagers with genital herpes, HPV and hepatitis, tracing back to all their sexual partners so they could be tested and treated.
Americans are not aggressively stamping out STDs like Asian countries are attacking SARS for one simple reason. Teenagers having sex is politically correct. We’ve handed condoms to teens for “safe sex” and told them to call Planned Parenthood if they get into trouble. We’ve told them that exploring their sexuality is more important than changing their behavior. We’ve handed them a loaded revolver and showed them how to pull the trigger.
According to Reuters, China’s center for disease control is “80 percent sure” a chlamydia-like agent has caused an outbreak of SARS. This report has received scant attention in the mainstream press. But what if China is right? What if the 3 to 4 million Americans the majority of which are 15- to 19-years-old infected with chlamydia every year are more likely to fall victim to SARS?
What would we do?