Way, way back when I was but a dewy-eyed innocent in middle school, I remember first being told about the importance of condoms. And, no, this wasn’t in some sex ed. class, this was from my grandmother, who pulled open a drawer in her vanity and told me, “If you ever need a condom, you can take one from here.” I was still many years off from having sex, but this was the 90s and red AIDS awareness ribbons were everywhere, and we had all seen Pedro on The Real World and Magic Johnson’s autobiography My Life was taught in health classes and Kids and Reality Bites were seminal films. So. Anyway all of that—though particularly my grandmother’s drawer-full-of-prophylactics—made an impression not just on impressionable me, but also on a whole generation of soon-to-be-sex-havers, emphasizing the importance of sex education in schools, and, you know, at home. But, you know, despite everyone’s best efforts to still live in the 90s, it’s pretty clear those days are over.
How clear is it? Well, via DNAinfo, we learned that the NYC Dept. of Health and Hygiene recently released numbers about the rapid rise of syphilis rates in New York City over the last decade, particularly in Manhattan (specifically Chelsea) and central Brooklyn. The Dept. of Health specifies that most of the new cases are among men who have sex with other men and that “the increasing syphilis incidence is driven by unprotected sex.”
DNAinfo notes that as a response to the trend in recent years of rising rates of syphilis “the city has distributed millions of condoms to try and stem the spread of syphilis, has run education programs on the disease for health workers and offers sliding-scale testing and treatment.” So let the serve as a reminder to those of us who do not have grandmother’s with condom-drawers that condoms are really easy to get your hands on, and that STD-testing is one of the best things we can do for our own health (both physical and mental—there’s no better way of achieving peace of mind). Oh, and also that you can get syphilis through oral sex too, so, you know, be careful out there. Get tested. Be safe. And watch Reality Bites again when you get a chance. It really holds up.