Bad Trip No. 6572B Part Three

Tripping It

Lehighton (PA) Times News

July 31, 1971

In Dr. David Reuben’s recent discourse on Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Venereal Disease—But Were Afraid to Ask, published in his June, 1971 column in McCall’s Magazine, he is asked:

“Can a person get VD without having sexual intercourse?”

He answers:

“Not really. The usual exceptions are infants infected by their mothers and an occasional laboratory worker who is contaminated by specimens taken from patients. Because the bacteria need warm, moist surroundings to survive, toilet seats and drinking glasses are not sources of infection.”

Asked what, if the disease is easy to diagnosis and cure, causes the disease to get out of control, Dr. Reuben answers:

“To most physicians, the answer is no secret. Like almost everything related to sex, guilt and fear play a prominent role in venereal diseases. Fed by moralistic notions that VD is the punishment for sexual intercourse outside of marriage, many victims are ashamed to seek treatment—simply because these two infections affect the sexual organs instead of, say, the stomach. Ignorance plays a role, too.”

Now let’s hear from someone who deals with cases of VD every day. His name is Norman J. Scherzer. He is program coordinator of the New York City Department of Health, Bureau of Venereal Disease.

The disease in New York, like elsewhere, is reaching monumental proportions. Question: “How do you account for that? The sexual revolution?”


“I don’t think the trend of venereal disease is influenced by social trends. For instance, in the calendar year which just ended our estimated figures show that New York City in 1970 had an increase in infectious syphilis close to 45 percent over 1969. Nobody can tell me that any population group in New York City has had an increase of 45 percent in sexual activity, or there has been such a radical change in sexual methodology in use of the pill or condoms.

“In the early 1960s, infectious syphilis decreased in New York City. It went down for four consecutive years. The major thing that’s happened since is that the resources available to the Venereal Disease Control Program were cut.”

So, Dr. Reuben says that ignorance is a reason for the rise in syphilis. People do not know they have it and when they have it they don’t know the facts about it, and they don’t know where to go with it when they think they have it—and often do not bother to check it because of guilt and shame when they know they do have it. Mr. Scherzer concurs. He credits the cut in funds that would help to make people aware of the problem, to educate the people in matters of VD, a great factor toward its spreading.

Scherzer further contends—blasting another theory that is propagated by people ignorant to the problem—that “statistically, prostitutes are not a significant syphilis problem.”

So what is the path to take to get rid of VD, or at least to cut it down a bit from its out-of-hand proportions?

Obviously, education is the primary step. A person who does not know what VD is, who does not know the symptoms, is a very likely candidate for a carrier—and will continue to be dangerous until he is treated.

Programs to educate younger people, where most of the activity in the problem rests, is of prime importance. Each school should have some type of arrangement with the Department of Health to have speakers and films acquaint students with the problem at some time during the school year; health and physical education instructors should make it a definite subject for their lesson plans.

The myths about the disease should be destroyed as quickly and effectively as possible. No more myths about getting it from door handles or from toilet seats.

The religious and moralistic barriers to having it recognized and treated once it is suspected must be broken down if it is to be eradicated.

It is said that a problem exposed to light is not a problem for long. An effort on the part of the general public to understand the problem and an effort on the part of government to fund programs to provide information and treatment is called for.

We have an intrinsic problem in Carbon County. There are no treatment facilities beyond a physician’s office. The physician’s office, however is a good place to kill it before it spreads. He is qualified to handle the case, in confidence.

For specialized treatment and handling, there is a clinic at the Reading Hospital. It is free and confidential.

It would be folly for a person who suspects he has cancer to ignore it and hope it goes away. VD, left untreated, can be equally as deadly.