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New gonorrhea strain on the rise - withstands antibiotics
By Jake Webb, West Hollywood, California
Warning: Some images contained herein are unpleasant, but so , too, is catching gonorrhea, which is the point in sharing them.
I get it. We no longer live in a society glued to our puritanical roots. We had revolutions of civil and sexual natures! We fought for identity and expression because breaking down the walls to our social acceptance would only result from a shift in America’s sexual paradigm.
But perhaps we broke too far into the foundation of sexual mores.
This photo captures the customary milky discharge associated with gonorrhea in the throat, usually accompanied by a sore throat.
I refuse to argue that sex is a bad thing but unsafe, anonymous sex is.
A while ago I contracted and wrote about syphilis (read about it here). After writing about it, WeHo News reported on a spike in California syphilis infections from 2011 to 2012. These events traumatized me but I gained a new perspective and respect for my body. I now have a “taste aversion” to men and sex, yet another wall built up from the ones we broke down, a wall built to keep me from a serious, stable relationship.
Yes, I’m still deathly afraid of sex and with good reason. I often contemplate whether, at twenty-two, I should be exploring what’s out there or settling down. The hedonist within me wants to explore what’s out there but I don’t do it because I already know: STD’s.
There’s this notion that the only fear is HIV because it is incurable but this is not so. A new strand of gonorrhea, the second most common sexually transmitted disease, has reportedly seeped into North American metropolises.
The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Dr. Robert Bolan, Medical Director; Dustin Kerrone, Sexual Health Program Director; and Chris Brown, Director, Health and Mental Health Services worked collectively to answer questions and enlighten the public on this new outbreak.
“Gonorrhea,” they said, “like any bacteria, adapts to its environment and changes over time, sometimes becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it. Data suggest that drug resistant strains are becoming more common.”
They continue, “Currently, an injection of ceftriaxone and an oral dose of azithromycin are effective treatments for gonorrhea. However, we are seeing a slow trend toward some strains of gonorrhea that require a higher amount of drug to kill it than several years ago. Unfortunately, there are few new antibiotic treatments on the horizon.”
In 1928 Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin, a discovery that would change medicine. Soon after, penicillin was the antibiotic of choice to rid the body of gonorrhea.
Eventually the disease mutated into a stronger, resistant strand and even higher doses of penicillin proved useless against the new enemy.
Luckily drug companies funneled billions of dollars into the research and discovered new antibiotics which would effectively kill the penicillin-resistant strands of the disease. Penicillin was out and the public was prescribed tetracycline.
Then gonorrhea mutated again.
Drug companies didn’t mind once again finding a cure, this time another antibiotic, cephalosporin. Drug research and development costs a lot of money and time though. Because these cures have short lifespans, the marginal costs of producing these antibiotics exceed the marginal benefits. What do economics tell us? Soon production will cease.
It looks like the current medication will soon find themselves on the outs. The CDC and the Journal of American Medical Association report that new cases of cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea are now being documented in North America.
The LA Gay and Lesbian Center notes that “although there have been about 30 cases of decreased antibiotic susceptibility in the past year in California, only a handful of cases of complete resistance have been identified in Europe and Asia. None have been identified in the U.S.”
For males who get gonorrhea, the milky discharge comes from the urethra and is accompanied by a burning sensation when urinating.
We are a shrinking world where diseases do not remain contained for very long. Keeping informed and prepared will allow us to fight and – hopefully - prevent this super gonorrhea from infesting the sheets of West Hollywood. Gonorrhea is known to affect over 320,000 individuals in the U.S. each year. Many people have asymptomatic gonorrhea and never know they carry the bacteria, so experts estimate that the realistic number is actually 700,000, more than double the documented amount.
Unlike syphilis, which largely targets the homosexual male population, gonorrhea is not localized to a certain gender or sexual orientation.
As with any issue there is a mélange of layers and complexities adding to our understanding of it. If we look at personality tendencies, patterns emerge. Some individuals are risk-takers, known for their reckless and impulsive decisions. These individuals are more likely to engage in drug use and unsafe sex practices.
Take the circuit scene for example. Not only is this a hyper-sexualized niche within West Hollywood culture, this population also accounts for much of the city’s drug use. I can attest to this because I’ve seen and experienced this world first-hand. A circuit party is an experience, sometimes treated as a religious or spiritual interaction. Drugs are required to understand and “go through” this experience with the other circuit scene-sters.
Usually it’s an alphabet soup of drugs- GHB, K, E, MDMA, etc.
Meth and other "party" or PNP drugs can increase the infection - and multiple infection - of people at a circuit party, or any weekend in WeHo.
Some partiers cannot afford, nor trust, these mixes of foreign substances and prefer another perfect club drug: meth. Meth not only reduces the appetites of the users, but it also keeps them up, alert, and excited to experience hours of shirtless dancing. Meth also inhibits the body’s ability to create dopamine after extended periods of time and is highly addictive. Men who have sex with men and use meth are also linked with having more sex partners and longer sexual encounters. Naturally, this group accounts for a decidedly higher statistic in gonorrhea contraction.
The same group that impulsively use club drugs often can be seen on hookup sites and apps. What’s alarming is the amount of individuals seeking bareback sex or PNP (party and play) on these sites. I explained why this is a trend in my syphilis article. I am informing you of this because I want you to beware- be wearing condoms, that is.
People get gonorrhea by having sex with someone who has the disease. “Having sex” means anal, vaginal, or oral sex. Gonorrhea can still be transmitted via fluids even if a man does not ejaculate. Gonorrhea can also be spread from an untreated mother to her baby during childbirth.
People who have had gonorrhea and have been treated may get infected again if they have sexual contact with a person infected with gonorrhea.
What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?
Some men with gonorrhea may have no symptoms at all. However, common symptoms in men include a burning sensation when urinating, or a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis that usually appears 1 to 14 days after infection. Sometimes men with gonorrhea get painful or swollen testicles.
Symptoms of rectal infection in both men and women may include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements. Rectal infections may also cause no symptoms. Infections in the throat may cause a sore throat, but usually cause no symptoms.
So what can we do?
Step one: find a testing center.
One easy WeHo testing facility at 745 N. San Vicente Blvd.
The LA Gay and Lesbian Center recommends that, “all sexually active people use condoms and test every year or when symptoms are present. Sexually active gay men and transgender women should test every quarter. The Center provides free STD screening and treatment at two locations in the L.A. area. More information is at freetesting.org.” I’m going to be tested at The Spot on San Vicente and Santa Monica this Saturday, it’s an easy in and out process.
Step two is abstinence.
I recommend abstaining from questionable or unsafe sex practices. Ultimately we all want to date but when doing so online, dating often leads straight to sex or meeting nymphomaniacs who claim to want something more. I understand we’ve raced out of the New Year’s Resolution excitement but I would offer the advice to practice denying yourself. Learn to say no because doing so may save your sex life in the long run. Nothing kills chemistry more than an STD.
The final step is notification.
An STD is embarrassing and frowned upon, but, like voting or paying your taxes, it is your civic duty to inform all possibly infected partners that you’ve acquired one. Luckily there are now apps to keep track of your and your potential partner’s health, like Qpid.me.
Sign up for Qpid.me and use it to screen your partners. Qpid.me allows for verified proof of your partner’s (and your) sexual health status. Use this service to text your verified results to your partner using and both of you will rest easier knowing you’ve taken charge of your health and body in 2013.