In terms of headlines, they don’t get much better than the one for this New York Times piece: “A Dangerous, ‘Silent Reservoir’ for Gonorrhea: The Throat.” It’s evocative, it’s terrifying, it’s so serious I can’t help but laugh to soothe my body’s anxieties. The dry, useful article it’s attached to touches on the complicated nature of identifying and treating gonorrhea, an STI that is often asymptomatic in both men and women. In fact, so asymptomatic is gonorrhea (as well as chlamydia) that one study from earlier this year refuted common wisdom by suggesting that PrEP may result in reducing bacterial STIs because in order to keep one’s prescription in good standing, he or she must be tested for STIs (including HIV) every three months.
The general casual talking point about PrEP, which only protects against HIV, is that it will proliferate the spread of STIs because of the suspicion that a reduced fear of HIV will lead PrEP users to abandon condoms all together. Some data supports this idea; other data finds condom use on the decline overall.
Regarding the argument at hand—your throat being a silent reservoir for gonorrhea—condom use is particularly pertinent because of how tremendously uncommon it is when it comes to oral sex. Think to yourself how often you’ve used condoms for oral. Or how about a dental dam? Do they even sell those in most drug stores? I have never in my life so much as heard anyone suggest using one during oral and I’m assuming my friends haven’t either, or I would have heard a story about the novelty of a sex parter suggesting protected oral sex. No one wants to suck on a balloon or tongue down a Slip ‘N Slide. Maybe they should want that, or something, but from my experience it’s generally not part of the conversation.
That said, gonorrhea is particularly important to detect and treat in women as it can cause “pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancies, and infertility.”
The Times piece eventually turns its attention to the antibiotic-resistant strain(s) of gonorrhea that have been running rampant in the media lately and possibly soon in your genitals/throat. Says the Times:
That does not necessarily mean that super gonorrhea is incurable, [Dr. Emilie Alirol, the head of the sexually transmitted infections program at the Global Antibiotics Research and Development Partnership] said. But doctors may have to resort to “off-label” treatments that haven’t been properly tested in humans — much higher doses of antibiotics, for instance, or older or stronger drugs.
“The problem of using off-label tools is that you don’t know which dose to give, or if it’s going to work,” Dr. Alirol said. “You want to keep these as last-resort tools. If you start giving them away, you will develop resistance to them, too.”
So what to do? Start using condoms and dental dams with oral or just wait it out and figure the planet is going to overheat and we’ll all be dead soon, anyway?