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Promiscuity’s High Costs to Society


I have always marveled that the anti-smoking and obesity crowds — those who would punish people for living unhealthy life styles — never seem to raise a peep about the high societal and personal costs of promiscuity. It seems to me that may be because the two former unhealthy categories are generally disdained by the cultural “in crowd,” while the latter way of living is extolled either implicitly, by the way many of our social role models live their lives, and more explicitly, by our music, film, and television entertainment, as well as other cultural transmitters, e.g., advertisements and Cosmopolitan.

But promiscuity comes at a very high personal and societal cost. According to the CDC, there were more more than 110 million sexually transmitted infections in the US as of 2008 (prevalence), with a new infection rate of about 20 million a year (incidence). From the CNS story:

According to new data released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 19.7 million new venereal infections in the United States in 2008, bringing the total number of existing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the U.S. at that time to 110,197,000.

If my math is right, that represents one STI for every three Americans! And, since the total population of about 330 million includes children and non-sexually-active adults, the number of sexually active people with an STI must be staggering. To be sure, not all of the infected are promiscuous, and (as comments have noted), some of the infected have multiple or recurring infections, but good grief!

Each of these infections harms the person infected. Each, presumably, requires some form of medical treatment. (Cost: $16 billion annually.) And that doesn’t include the unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and the consequences flowing therefrom. From the CDC report:

CDC’s cost estimates reflect the lifetime direct medical cost per case of eight common STIs in the United States and do not include either indirect costs (e.g., loss of productivity) or intangible costs (e.g., pain and suffering) associated with many STIs. Including such costs would have resulted in a substantially higher estimated economic burden.

Isn’t it time that promiscuity receive the same “Don’t do it!” cultural signals as we see with smoking, overeating, and for that matter, gun ownership? I wonder if Mayor Bloomberg will comment. Actually, I don’t. 

Update: I used too loose language in the original version of this post, e.g., that there were 110 million “people” with infections. I have corrected that. But to argue about the exact number is really to miss the forest for the trees. 


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