This is a public health issue

Blue Sign for sex health clinic

The latest figures released by local councils show a massive explosion in STI rates across the country, with 97% of areas reporting an unprecedented rise in infections since 2017.  Ten areas in particular report that syphilis and gonorrhoea infection rates have tripled, but there are similar rises for all infections.   The highest rates of diagnoses were in the London borough of Lambeth, closely followed by ten more inner city boroughs. Elsewhere, the largest increases in rates for gonorrhoea were seen in Wigan, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Torbay, and for syphilis in Middlesbrough, the Isle of Wight, Darlington, and Redcar and Cleveland.  Sexual health services are reportedly finding it extremely difficult to cope with the inevitably increased demand and are said to be at breaking point.

For some of us, the reported increase comes as no surprise.  Rather, it appears an inevitable consequence of society’s changing attitudes towards, and encouragement of, casual sex.  As VfJUK has so often warned, this is what happens when you teach children from kindergarten onwards that they are by nature sexual beings, with an absolute right to have sex whenever and wherever they want, with whomsoever they want. 
Yet still, when it comes to dealing with the problem (and, make no mistake, this is a problem), the powers that be continue to bury their collective heads in the sand.    For instance, the Local Government Association, which is behind this latest report, is calling for the provision of extra funding, so as to enable local sexual health clinics to increase testing and better meet demand.  It’s government cuts to health services that have led to the problem, they say, and this must be urgently redressed.   David Fothergill, chair of the LGSA’s community well-being board, is quoted as saying, “Investment in sexual health services helps to prevent longer-term illness and unwanted pregnancies, reducing pressure on our NHS and improving the health of people across our communities.
With the greatest respect, such reasoning is not just flawed, but extremely dangerous.  With this approach, as we have already seen over the last sixty odd years, the problem can only grow worse, leaving our population weakened and ‘diseased’ – there really is no other way of describing it.  In the early years of the last century, the UK faced a similar problem.  During and after World War 1, soldiers returning from the front brought with them an unwelcome gift that just wouldn’t stop giving, placing the civilian population at high risk.  Compromised sexual health was identified by social hygienists at the time as posing a threat to national wellbeing, strength and efficiency which, if left unchecked, would fatally weaken the nation, leading to ‘economic, and imperial decline’.  
In 1913, attempting to deal with the already rising tide of infections, the National Council for Combating Venereal Disease had been set up, tasked with combatting the problems arising from sexual laxity and moral depravity.  When war did break out, the overriding fear was that our armed forces would be simply too weak to fight, so rapid action was taken to put in place a programme for sexual health education, and to provide free treatment for those already infected.  The link between sexual ill health and immorality was driven home by lectures to groups such as Friendly Societies, Mothers’ Unions, Girls’ Clubs, and yes … to soldiers – all designed to alert the British public to the dangers of ‘moral degeneracy’ and prevent the spread of infection.  
This indeed was the start of ‘sex education’ as we know it today, but back then it focussed on hygiene and moral purity, encouraging abstinence from sexual relations outside marriage. The aim was to keep the nation healthy and strong.
It was but a short step from there to the introduction of a similar programme into schools, focussing again on hygiene, the prevention of the spread of syphilis and gonorrhoea, and the avoidance of teenage pregnancy – which, with the behavioural changes produced by war, was also becoming a major problem.  That programme began formally in 1943, with the introduction of a guidance on Sex Education in Schools and Youth Organisations, produced by the UK Board for Education (Board of Education (1943) London: HMSO).  
But since the 1970s, launched with the decade’s noisy celebration of ‘free love’ and feminist equality – allowed by the introduction of contraception and abortion for all – there has been a sea-change.  Instead of encouraging men and women to regulate their appetites, maintaining public and private morality, the emphasis has shifted. Current thinking argues that the satisfaction of sexual desire is natural and innate, and takes priority over all, while restraint is unnatural and repressive – even harmful. Disease has, therefore, become not a consequence to be avoided by proper precaution, but rather the ‘enemy’, which must be conquered in order to allow men and women to be freely themselves. 
Equally, the sexual mores that have prevailed for thousands of years, underpinning the structure and form of both family and society, are dismissed as antediluvian relics of patriarchal control, so that every form of sexual predilection and practice, no matter how seemingly outlandish, now has to be affirmed and even embraced.
This is madness. Such attitudes are not, and never can be, an expression of freedom, but simply cause harm – to the individual, to families, and to society as a whole. Biologically, emotionally, and mentally, we are not designed to live like this … the chaos, alienation and despair that so many now face was inevitable. Once again, the populace has become diseased, a prey to the 31 sexually transmitted infections now prevalent, some of which, despite the hype, remain untreatable. Which means that those affected don’t just live at sub-optimal level, but run the risk of premature death, and are a danger to others.
Sadly, then, the clock has come full circle, and, without urgent action to stem what is at base moral decline, our nation faces a progressively diseased and uncertain future.  Something that is perhaps particularly troubling as the threat of war grows, and it becomes increasingly likely that we will once again have to fight to protect our shores. The answer to the explosion of sexually transmitted infections is not to throw more money at containing them, but rather to encourage men and women, for their own and the nation’s wellbeing, to exercise personal restraint.

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