The High Price of VD
A 19-DAY-OLD baby was admitted to a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. The infant had not been eating well, was lethargic and had a yellowish discharge from her left eye.
Doctors made strenuous efforts to help the baby with antibiotics; but she continued to get worse. What was wrong?
More than two weeks were spent in search of the cause of the child’s illness. Finally doctors discovered an infection by a virus—herpes simplex Type 2, a form of venereal disease (VD). The baby is now in a home for children with brain damage.
VD has become a household word for millions of persons throughout the world. Dr. Ralph Henderson, who heads the VD branch of the U.S. Center for Disease Control, explained that, “next to the common cold, VD is our most communicable disease.”
What is venereal disease? How serious is it? Is there a reasonably sure way to avoid VD?
VD can refer to any of a number of contagious diseases. The most common are syphilis and gonorrhea. Why are these maladies termed “venereal”?
The Encyclopædia Britannica (1974 edition) answers: “The venereal diseases are linked not because of similarity of causative agents, tissue reactions, and symptoms produced but because the principal means of spread of each disease is by sexual intercourse, as implied by their group name, venereal, derived from the name of the goddess of love, Venus.”
“It’s like Fighting a War”
Venereal disease has spread like wildfire in recent years. Concerning gonorrhea in the United States, the April 1974 issue of Life and Health remarked: “One new case occurs every 16 seconds, 7,000 a day. That’s 2 1⁄2 million a year!” And syphilis is growing at the rate of some 85,000 new cases a year. A United States government-funded study termed VD the “most serious and fastest growing epidemic” in the country.
VD is no respecter of age either. While teen-agers and persons in their twenties make up the vast majority of those who suffer from it, some cases are reported among people over sixty. And it afflicts even the very young. Life and Health, quoted above, points out: “In one Eastern city 50 of 13,000 annual cases of reported gonorrhea occurred among children under 10 years of age!”
Efforts to control VD with penicillin and other antibiotics have been disappointing. Dr. Ralph Henderson lamented: “It’s gotten out of sight. The harder we work, the more cases we find. It’s like fighting a war.”
Why So Much VD?
What is responsible for the enormous increase in venereal disease in recent years? Writer Douglas Colligan observes in Science Digest of June 1973: “The answers vary according to who is quizzed, but the most popular formulized answer is ‘the three P’s’—the pill, promiscuity and permissiveness.”
The highly contagious nature of venereal disease contributes to its rapid spread. Indicating how easily one can become infected is a letter received by a medical doctor and columnist:
“I am an 18-year-old girl. It has been detected in a pre-college physical examination and blood test that I have VD. I am still in a state of shock. I am at a loss as to how I could have cont[r]acted this. A kiss goodnight has been the limit I have ever let a boy touch me, much less have a sexual contact with one.”
The doctor replied that germs of gonorrhea and syphilis thrive in the linings (mucous membranes) of human body openings, adding: “The mouth and lips, for example, are openings, and an infected lining (a little, painless syphilis ulcer, for instance) could pass on the disease by a kiss. Do you see?”
Another factor in the spread of VD is that infected persons often show no symptoms; they may not even know that they have the disease.
The High Price of Syphilis
The Bible plainly states: “He that practices fornication is sinning against his own body.” (1 Cor. 6:18) The high price paid by persons who suffer from venereal disease amply confirms that statement. Take syphilis, for instance.
Syphilis results from infection by a microscopic “spirochete,” a spiral or corkscrew-shaped germ called Treponema pallidum. It enters the body through breaks in the skin or mucous membranes. Within hours after entry the spirochete begins multiplying and spreads throughout the body by way of the blood and lymph systems. Medical authorities have defined three stages of syphilis. However, an “incubation period” of ten days to ten weeks often follows infection before any evidence of the disease appears.
The first indication of “primary” syphilis is a “chancre,” an open sore at the place where the germ entered. This is usually painless and may be so slight as to go unnoticed. Untreated, it heals of itself in two to six weeks, which can deceive a person into thinking that all is well. Ordinarily syphilis in its chancre stage is accompanied by enlargement of nearby lymph nodes.
Signs of “secondary” syphilis show up from four weeks to several months after the appearance of the chancre. Evidence of this stage of syphilis may persist for from a few days to several months and then disappear without treatment. About half of infected persons develop symptoms such as headache, vague pains in bones and joints and sore throat. There may also be sores on the genital organs and a skin rash that does not itch, as well as some continuance of symptoms of the primary stage. The book Preventive Medicine and Public Health explains:
“Other more or less common manifestations of secondary syphilis are a moth-eaten type of loss of hair from the scalp, external or internal inflammation of the eye, pain from bone involvement, jaundice from liver involvement, . . . and syphilitic meningitis with severe headache, convulsions, deafness, partial paralysis, and sometimes coma.”
While not all people develop these severe symptoms, does this sound like a price you would like to risk paying for a few moments of immoral pleasure?
The third or “latent” stage of syphilis is even worse, though symptoms may not appear for years. In this stage, according to Life and Health, the spiral-shaped germs “attack the brain, causing insanity; the spinal cord, paralyzing portions of the body; the heart or major blood vessels, weakening them; or the optic nerve, causing blindness. The victim can only guess whether he will become crippled, paralyzed, or insane! Many of these will die early.”
Syphilis often escapes detection. Its evidences are so like other illnesses that it has been called “the great imitator.” Many people do not suspect that they have syphilis, and some persons may reach the third stage of this disease having never exhibited external symptoms of primary or secondary syphilis. Persons with syphilis indeed pay a high price.
The Price of Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea results from infection by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, also called gonococcus, a microscopic organism that frequently lodges in the mucous membranes of the reproductive organs. It, too, is highly contagious, and, as with syphilis, gonorrhea may display no symptoms. There are now thought to be 800,000 females in the United States unknowingly carrying gonorrhea.
For those who do show symptoms, early evidence of gonorrhea may be painful urination or a discharge of pus from the genital organ. In males, gonorrhea affects the urethra, the canal that transports the urine from the bladder out of the body. Gonorrhea also involves sacs that store sperm and can, therefore, lead to sterility.
In females, this disease often produces a large painful abscess near the opening of the vagina. Gonorrhea spreads to the uterine tubes and, here too, can lead to sterility. During a recent year, in just one country, more than 100,000 hysterectomies were performed for conditions directly related to gonorrhea. And it can also result in blindness, heart disease and crippling arthritis. Do you feel that a few minutes of sexual pleasure are worth the high price of gonorrhea?
Of course, many feel that gonorrhea is easy to get rid of. Just a shot of penicillin, they think, and everything is all right. To such persons, Dr. Harold T. Hyman sounds a serious warning:
“Smart alecks of both sexes and of any age do not realize that gonorrhea can no longer be prevented or cured with certainty by sulfa pills that used to be 100% effective. Many strains of gonococci have become ‘fast,’ meaning that they are now resistant to the sulfas and/or to penicillin. Self-treatments may merely mask the infection and result in later transmission to coital partners of a ‘treatment resistant’ strain of gonococci.”
It is now reported that even viral hepatitis may be sexually transmitted. And as for Herpes VD, mentioned at the beginning of this article, two doctors write in a fall 1974 issue of a journal published by the American Cancer Society:
“A review of the data suggests that there is some relationship between herpesvirus type 2 and the development of cervical cancer. Indeed, recent evidence points to an even more widespread association between herpesviruses and cancer.”
The High Price Others Pay
Persons who already have VD, however, are not the only ones who pay its high price. Most serious is what often happens to newborn infants and even to those not yet born.
A pregnant woman with syphilis, for example, can transmit the disease to a child developing in her womb. This may result in spontaneous abortion, miscarriage, a stillborn fetus, or a fatally ill infant. If the child survives, it may suffer from a number of deformities. “These include,” according to the Encyclopædia Britannica (1974 edition), “thickening of the shins, notching of the teeth, collapse of the bridge of the nose, and eye defects.” Congenital syphilis can affect the infant even when the mother can no longer pass on the disease by sexual intercourse. During 1973 some 3,000 cases of congenital syphilis were reported in the United States.
Gonorrhea, though it is not passed on during pregnancy, may infect the infant as it passes through the birth canal. This can cause the newborn to develop severe inflammation of one or both eyes and of the delicate membrane that lines the eyelids. And we have already seen the tragic effect of Herpes VD on a newborn infant.
Can You Avoid Paying the Price?
The price of VD is indeed high. But there is a way to be reasonably certain that you will not pay that price. Not, however, by looking to penicillin or other drugs. You must get at the basic cause of transmission of venereal disease. How?
Since becoming infected in ways other than sexual intercourse is extremely rare, the wisest course is that recommended by Dr. Harold T. Hyman: “Avoid promiscuous intercourse.”
But how can one follow that advice in a world that lays so much stress on “free sex”? The Bible helps by pointing to the root cause of immoral acts:
“From inside, out of the heart of men, injurious reasonings issue forth: fornications, . . . adulteries, . . . loose conduct . . . All these wicked things issue forth from within and defile a man.”—Mark 7:21-23.
The remedy, therefore, is to change one’s pattern of thinking, to remold one’s desires. That is what the Bible encourages, saying: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col. 3:5) Such things should “not even be mentioned” as topics of entertaining conversation among persons who wish to please God.—Eph. 5:3.
The motive for such a change, however, should not be merely the fear of VD; nor should it be simply because persons who practice sexual immorality ‘will not inherit God’s kingdom.’ (1 Cor. 6:9) The motivation should be as the apostle Paul expressed it: “For this is what God wills, . . . that you abstain from fornication.” (1 Thess. 4:3) It is not fear of adverse consequences, but love of God and an earnest desire to meet his approval that has helped millions of persons throughout the world to clean up their lives from sexual immorality. It can do the same for you.
The price of VD is a high one. It can bring untold physical and mental anguish and even cause death. But you will do much to avoid paying that price if you heed the Scriptural advice: “Keep abstaining from . . . fornication. . . . Good health to you!”—Acts 15:29.