Thursday Guest Blog: Howard Gunning

The HBO series, “Sex in the City” saw a resurgence in popularity this year when the big screen version was released.  Women from all walks of life flocked to theaters to catch up on the doings (and wardrobes) of old friends Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones, Charlotte York, and Miranda Hobbes.  Ask women why they love the series so, and the most common answer is the friendships the women have with each other.  What’s interesting to me as a health care educator is what is generally not in the common answers—the sexual context the friendships are set in, and the absence of the real life devastating effects that afflict real-life people who choose to live out their sexuality so, well, voraciously.  As the character Samantha once said, “Women are for friendships, men are for f******” (episode 30).  Tellingly, perhaps, is that in the 94 episodes of the series these four friends cycle through 95 sex partners. Those 95 encounters only generated 2 treatable sexually transmitted diseases—STDs–(Charlotte in episode 29 and Miranda in episode 36) and 1 pregnancy (but admittedly, I may have missed something in reading the synopses of all the programs).

This is where my interest comes in. The hard reality is that STDs take a devastating toll mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually in our country.  It cost $14.6 billion to treat patients with STDs in 2006 alone.  STDs are among the most contagious diseases in the US: 19 million cases are reported (and millions more go unreported) in the US every year.  Almost half of those are in 15-24 year olds.  In fact, earlier this year the CDC reported in that 25% of teenage girls in a study contracted an STD annually.

There are currently 20 STDs (there were “only” 7 when I entered healthcare in 1976) and many are incurable (HIV, HSV, HPV, etc). The numbers of Americans living with an incurable STD are staggering: over 50 million with HPV (causes genital warts), 20 million with HSV (causes genital herpes), and over 1 million with HIV (causes AIDS).  Previously treatable STDs, such as gonorrhea, are becoming drug resistant—cephalosporins are now the last class of antibiotics left to treat it.   Changing sexual practices are allowing diseases that used to be primarily confined to areas “below the waist” to now commonly occur orally (much to the surprise of many a young patient who believes if it was oral, it wasn’t really sex).

I could go on, but suffice it to say that this is a genuine, gigantic problem.  And it does no good to bury our heads in the sand and not honestly discuss these frankly—brutally if necessary—with our young.  Friendships are valuable beyond measure, but friendships steeped in voracious sexual behavior are asking for real trouble.  “Practically all the relationships I know are based on a foundation of lies and mutually accepted delusion.” –Samantha (episode 14, “The Awful Truth”).


Here’s a photo I discovered online (click).  It may be doctored (it looks that way to me), but it’s a good launching point for discussion with my students.

Howard Gunning is a professor in the department of Medicine at Southwestern Illinois College in Granite City, IL.  He is also the chairman of the board at Highland Community Church and a genuine friend of the family.

Got an interesting topic regarding God, faith, ministry, youth, or other relevant topics?  Write for Thursday’s guest blog by sending an e-mail to:  Subject: Guest Blog.  Be sure to contain the article in it’s entirety in the message body along with a short bio about yourself.  It’s that simple.

Look forward to hearing from you soon.



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