Bad Trip No. 6572B Part Two

Tripping It

Lehighton (PA) Times News

July 24, 1971

The topic of national (and local) priorities is very interesting—and very paradoxical. We find that our country spends millions upon millions of dollars on a war that has nothing but negative returns, it gives millions of dollars in foreign aid to minor countries who take money from both sides in the Cold War and thereby live comfortably, and it ignores pressing problems.

In north Philadelphia there is a half-block of newly-built apartments that were constructed for welfare families. They are not occupied, the windows are broken, the doors are scarred and defaced, as though they had gone through a fire bombing. The government built the apartments and was prepared to rent them to welfare families for about $50 a month. They never got rented to the welfare families because the government had not installed air conditioning, and the welfare roll folks refused to move into an apartment without air conditioning.

There is next to no money being put into research and preventive care for venereal disease, which has been described by the Health Department as having reached “epidemic proportions.” Somewhere priorities and common sense have been set aside or have been perverted into a political appeasement that is accomplishing nothing constructive, but that is managing to get some money spent—as it par, in the wrong directions.

Venereal disease is not something that has always been relegated to a problem that must take care of itself. Immediately following World War Ii, when servicemen were returning form Europe and from the Asian theater with the laurels of victory on their heads and with the germs of venereal disease in their loins, a vigorous program to stem the problem was undertaken by the government. As a result, the disease was brought down to reasonable proportions.

As with all government programs, however, once the problem was under control, the money was withdrawn—the finger taken from the hole in the dike, so to speak. Consequently, in the last twenty years the disease has been getting out of hand again. For statistic freaks, there were 4206 cases of gonorrhea reported in Pennsylvania in 1955 7158 in 1960, and 16,796 in 1969. And very little “official” effort to stem the tide. The problem is further complicated by the fact that we are beyond ten years into another war, with returning veterans carrying a mutant strain of Asian VD that conventional treatment methods are not proving effective against. There is no corresponding rise in funds pouring into research, education, and treatment of VD, however.

So what can be done?

Education of the public to the symptoms and the treatment is probably the first logical step. So, let’s take a look at VD:

Syphilis is a subtle disease at first. Some 21 to 90 days after having been infected, a sore or chancre will appear in, on, or near the sex organs, at the point where the infection entered the body. The chancre is evident on the male sex organs, but may go completely unnoticed in the female, since the female sex organs are primarily interior. The sore or chancre may be mistaken for a simple pimple and be entirely overlooked, thereby relieving worries on the part of the infected person. The problem is, the person’s worries, rather than being alleviated, have only begun.

The organisms are then at work attacking tissues and organs inside the body. The destruction of body cells leads to other symptoms, heralding the secondary stage. The reactions to the disease at that point include signs of fever, sore throat, splitting headaches, body rash, and bald spots where patches of hair fall out. In some people, these physical signs are not outstanding—they may be very subtle or subdued. The symptoms of the secondary state often lie hidden for 10 to 25 years, slowly working away on the body tissues.

The third stage is irreversible. During the third and final stage, vital organs are damaged. The disease causes mental illness, blindness, heart disease, or other various deformities. The breakdown of the vital organs, naturally, causes premature death.

Afflicted persons, however, are not hopelessly lost. Persons who have had syphilis should have no fear about getting married and raising a family, provided they have received proper treatment. The important thing is to get it treated as quickly as possible in order to arrest the damage.

The sad part of the problem is that parents infected with the disease very easily pass it on to newborn babies, or cause miscarriages or stillborn children. The same mortality aspect is carried over with gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea is more prevalent in this country than its sister killer syphilis.

The disease is caused by a bacterium called gonococcus. The disease, if untreated, can cause much the same damage as syphilis. (Some 1.7 million Americans were treated for gonorrhea in 1970.)

Unlike syphilis, the incubation period for gonorrhea is much shorter—it is only three to five days after infection. The most prominent symptom of gonorrhea is a pus discharge from the sex organ. In man it is accompanied by a painful, burning sensation during urination. In women, symptoms are a little more difficult to detect because the female seldom has a burning sensation during urination, and the pus discharge often goes unnoticed.

Like syphilis, however, gonorrhea is treatable, and curable—if it is caught in time.

One of the important points to remember with VD is that there is no correlation between cleanliness or class status and affliction with the disease. The world’s cleanest or the world’s richest person can catch it just as readily as the world lowliest slob.

The prime concern is to recognize that it has been contracted and then to do something about it.

(Next week we’ll cover the interview with a VD investigator and the comments from Dr. David Reuben, both of which were squeezed out this week due to space limitations.)

In retrospect: Memo to self: Hey, Rich, nice public service piece, but The Times-News was a p.m. newspaper that people were going to read between getting home from work and eating supper.