Hide the Condoms, Syphilis is Back!

Syphilis is making a comeback. The Associated Press reports that the all-but-forgotten STD is breaking out in major cities in Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent, the United States, which reported about 10,000 cases last year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that reported cases of the disease increased by nearly 12 percent in 2006, mostly afflicting the South and urban areas. Considering that half of new STD cases affect 15- to 24-year-olds, you’d think that we’d be passing out condoms left and right in order to stop the resurgence of syphilis, right? Guess again.

The Bush administration has spent more than $1 billion to preach abstinence in schools and has tried to hamper CDC efforts to provide information about condoms. But promoting abstinence doesn’t work: In April, Congress requested an evaluation that found that kids who received abstinence education were just as likely to have sex as those who did not. And yet, Congress is entertaining the idea of increasing funding for abstinence programs from $176 million to $204 million. Meanwhile, at least 14 states have rejected federal money for abstinence-only programs. Maybe it’s time for Congress to abstain from this public-health boondoggle, too.

— Neha Inamdar