2022 Sexual Health — What the F*** Happened?
By Amelia Pooser
As we begin 2023, it is impossible not to look back on the impactful year of 2022. From the reversal of Roe v. Wade to MPV, the year has definitely been memorable in the sphere of sexual health. While not all of the year’s notable moments are positive it is still important to look back on them as they enter the never-ending recording of human history. Additionally, by looking back we can hopefully make the change necessary to make 2023 the best year yet.
The year started with reports from the CDC shedding light on the increasing number of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States. They reported that new data suggests that cases of gonorrhea and syphilis have increased significantly in the past few years, maybe in relation to the isolation and quarantine of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Then June hit and the year took a turn. MPV began to appear in the US, sparking concern and the spread of misinformation as many feared a repeat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, much of the misinformation regarding the disease related to its infection and travel methods which led to heavy discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
Around the same time that MPV began to come to a head, Roe v. Wade was overturned in the Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24th, 2022. Following the overturn, 13 abortion bans immediately came into effect around the country, and the number will likely rise to around 24 states. This was a life-changing decision made by the Supreme Court as many state bans include medical abortions with some not including exceptions for rape or incest. As the American University in Washington DC stated, “The only alternative to abortion is childbirth, which has a 14 times higher risk of death than that abortion.”
In October of 2022, the University of Michigan Medicine reported that sexual assault-related ER visits had increased more than tenfold over the past few years. A new statistic from the FBI estimated that every 68 seconds in the US, a new sexual assault occurs. However, hospital data indicates that in the same period of time, sexual assault ER admissions have decreased by around 8%. These are worrying statistics as more sexual assault victims choose not to seek out medical care or law enforcement. This is increasingly troublesome combined with new abortion bans, like in Idaho, where the exception for abortions surrounding rape or incest only applies when the incident is reported to the police.
Finishing off in December of 2022, scientific studies reported that COVID-19 vaccines are also helping protect HIV patients. The Ruhr University Bochum in Germany reported that their study with around 90 participants found that HIV patients who were administered the COVID-19 vaccine were able to produce working and healthy antibodies. It was noted that completely healthy patients did produce more antibodies overall, but the study is a good sign for those with HIV who have become more and more vulnerable to emerging diseases in the world.
Overall, last year was not the kindest to us in the realm of sexual health, but it is important to note that while these events have hurt many people, they have also brought them together as they fought for abortion rights and LGBTQ+ destigmatization. With a hopeful outlook for 2023, we hope to see some great things in the realms of STDs, forms of birth control, and much more!