Old Venereal Diseases Not Things of the Past
Byline: Burt Constable
When President Clinton apologized Friday to the men who were used as government guinea pigs in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, the scene had the feel of ancient history.
The study began in the 1930s and the surviving victims now are as old as 100.
But syphilis isn't history. Neither is gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that don't receive the media attention merited by AIDS and HIV.
"I think a lot of people think these things just don't exist in DuPage County," says Judi Beauregard, coordinator for the STD department of the DuPage County Health Department. "They just don't get the publicity these days."
"It's absolutely true," agrees Carmen Barnhart, an STD-HIV health educator with the Lake County Health Department. "We treat a couple cases of each at our clinic each week. We're still seeing them and they're still transmitted the same way."
"I got burned," is the slang used by people who suspect they have a venereal disease because of the sometimes obvious symptom of a burning sensation while urinating.
But chlamydia is tricky, Beauregard says, because about 80 percent of the women and nearly half the men with it have no symptoms.
"So people don't know they've got it," Barnhart says.
Without treatment the disease can cause infertility or sterility.
But chlamydia is curable, as is gonorrhea (also known as "the clap") and syphilis. But untreated, some simple diseases can lead to heart problems and even death.
While local STD statistics are relatively small, the number of people treated for syphilis and chlamydia are up since last year, officials say.
However, "the biggest problem, which nobody every talks about, is herpes," says Howard Mirsky, executive director of the Citizens Alliance for VD Awareness, a Mount Prospect-based, not-for-profit group that publishes a newsletter called "STD Spotlight. …