I can’t help but see the irony in two totally different yet parallel news stories. One, a blog from Salon, proclaims a growing “sexless trend’’ documented by three recent pieces written by noteworthy writers on the subject. The other is an alarm sounded by a Johns Hopkins infectious disease expert at a scientific meeting today for “all sexually active American women age 40 and older’’ to get tested for the sexually transmitted disease Trichomonas vaginalis (aka “Trich’’) after finding that twice as many women are infected with the parasite than previously thought.
It seems odd that at the same time “sex has lost its frisson of freedom’’ and that “sexual passion is on life support — as best-selling novelist Erica Jong declared in a Sunday New York Times essay — we’re told that our cavalier sexual ways has led to a surge of Trich.
Actually, perhaps the two news stories aren’t as dichotomous as they sound. Jong thinks women in her generation of 60-somethings still happily stoke their wild side; it’s her daughter’s Internet generation, she wrote, that goes for “simulated sex without intimacy, without identity and without fear of infection. Risky behavior can be devoid of risk.’’
While generation X’ers certainly get STD’s, they appear to have much lower rates of Trich than baby boomers. The Hopkins study, presented today at the annual meeting of the International Society for STD Research, in Quebec City, Canada, found that among 7,593 US women ages of 18 to 89, women 50 and over had the highest trich infection rate: 13 percent. Those in their 40s had an 11 percent infection rate.
Overall, the survey found an average infection rate of about 8.7 percent – which was typical for young adults under age 30.
Study leader Charlotte Gaydos, a public health professor the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a statement that routine screening is vital to prevent transmission of the parasite since many women don’t have the typical symptoms of vaginal discharge, irritation while urinating, and genital itching. Left untreated, trich can cause many health problems like inflammation of the vagina, urethra, and cervix, higher risk of HIV transmission, and pelvic inflammatory disease, which often leads to infertility.
“What we are really witnessing with trichomonas, especially in older women, is that no one ever looked, no one ever tested, and diagnosed,’’ said Gaydos, “and no one is really getting treated, so the infection persists year after year.’’