Sometimes in life when you think that you are “winning”, you are in fact really losing. And not just losing, but losing BIG! After all, take it from me when I tell you that winners don’t drink Tiger blood Charlie! Yeah Sheen, thanks for that epic piece of crap advice! Now, because of you and your “advice”, my brother Dr. I has a problem! A BIG, BIG problem.
After hearing what Charlie Sheen had to say about the virtues of drinking tiger blood, it took me over a month to convince Dr. I that Tiger Blood snow cones are not made using real tiger blood. And, that drinking Tiger Blood snow cones will in no way make you smarter, faster or more virile! To this day though, in-spite of all of the interventions and difficult conversations that those of us who care about Dr. I have had with him about his Tiger blood snow cone habit, I am still completely convinced that Dr. I is on the “tiger blood”. That’s right friends, I am still strongly suspect that when my dear old brother is tired from a long day of caring for patients, that he steals away quietly into the nearest empty patient exam room that he can find. And that once there, safely hidden away from the prying eyes of a judgmental world, he secretly devours Tiger blood snow cones like Blackula once devoured human blood in search of both strength and stamina.
While I have very little doubt that Dr. I is still a regular consumer of the Tiger Blood snow cones, unfortunately, I do not think that I will ever be able to definitively prove my theory. Alas, like many people with a problem, my poor brother has become very good at hiding his tiger blood habit from the world. But deep down, I still know that he has this problem. And, I also know that deep down, there are many people out there like Dr. I who also have problems. Problems that cause them to engage in certain risky behaviors that make them think that they are winning, when in fact they are really losing and they are losing BIG! Sadly, some of these people can be found among the brave men and women who serve in our military. So, on this Memorial Day, lets give them a quick nod.
Race to the Bottom
Riddle me this. When does scoring not make you a winner? The answer? When “scoring” a night with that sexy gal or with that muy caliente guy leaves you with more than just a special memory or two. When winning the battle of the sexes for one-night means that you’ve lost the war waged against sexually transmitted diseases. When winning means that you are coming home with a little parting gift that you may want to affectionately refer to as “The Clap”, but that we in the business not-so-affectionately refer to as Gonorrhea! Unfortunately, more and more brave men and women of the armed forces are coming home with just this or similar parting gifts. That’s right, among Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Syphilis are rising faster than a barrage of colorful fireworks lighting up the night time sky on the 4th of July. And, as we are seeing more and more cases of hard to treat STDs like Multi-Drug Resistent Gonorrhea, the long-term consequences of some of these infections can truly be long-term and devastating.
Among the four major branches of the U.S. military, the two branches that are leading the pack in a surprising race to the bottom are the United States Navy and the United States Marines, “Oorah”!!! Last year saw the rate of Gonorrhea double both among several Marine companies and several Naval fleets. While a discouraging development, the rise in sexually transmitted diseases seen among members of the U.S. military really isn’t all that surprising. In many ways, the reality is that the men and women of the armed forces are the perfect candidates for both contracting and transmitting sexually transmitted diseases. For starters, many of them are young. And, in case you were not aware, young people tend to not only have lots of sex, but, they also tend to have lots of unprotected sex. In fact, a recent survey found that fewer than half of sexually active 20 and 30 somethings reported regular condom use during sexual activity. Add to this the fact that many of the men and women of our armed forces frequently not only find themselves far away from home and from their usual sexual partners, but also deployed globally in countries where weak public health systems may result in extremely high local STD rates, and a scary picture starts to emerge. There is in fact though more to the story.
The Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen of the U.S. military are disproportionately represented by minorities, the poor, and by people who come from the southern United States. Additionally, the men and women of the U.S. military are one and a half times more likely than their civilian counterparts to binge drink. Drinking, especially binge drinking slows the brain and impairs judgement. Not surprisingly, research has found that certain populations of binge drinkers are two times more likely than their non-binge drinking counterparts to engage in sexual activity with multiple partners. Additionally, the same research has found that many of these hypersexual binge drinkers are less likely than their non-binge drinking counterparts to use condoms, and, as a result are 5 times more likely than their non-binge drinking counter parts to be diagnosed with Gonorrhea. Couple these facts with the fact that minorities, the poor and people from the southern U.S. are statistically more likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, and a clear picture starts to come into focus. One that makes the U.S. military’s skyrocketing STD rate a lot easier to understand. And the truth is, once public health officials are better able to understand what it is that lies at the root of a public health problem, they are then better able to wage a winning war against that problem. So, on this Memorial Day, as we think about the brave men and women who selflessly put themselves in harms way to help secure our way of life, lets sure hope that that will be the case. Because a health military is a more capable military.