Overcoming Pain

Why people experience chronic pain, and the power they have to de-intensify it

The Girl from Ipanema and Her Sexually Transmitted Disease

The relationship between pubic hair removal and sexually transmitted disease.

Just about now they are coming in over-the-transom to Student Health Centers in colleges and universities throughout this country. They are the newly infected, young men and women having spent Holy Week worshipping with bended knee before Bacchus, now learning that that Brazilian Bikini Wax has put them squarely between Scylla and Charybdis.

An article in last month’s edition of “Sexually Transmitted Infections” describes the relationship between pubic hair removal and the viral infection known as molluscum contagiosum. This infection was once considered to be common among those with damaged immune systems; but its incidence in the general population as a sexually transmitted disease has been increasing over the past ten years.

The authors of the article describe 30 patients who presented for treatment for sexually transmitted molluscum contagiosum; 21 had shaved their pubic hair, four had used clippers on their pubic hair, and three had waxed. Unfortunately, this sort of hair removal leaves behind small cuts and abrasions, possibly allowing for the easier spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including herpes and even hepatitis.

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However, the rise of the Brazilian look may be responsible for the sharp decline in another sexually transmitted phenomenon: the pubic louse—otherwise known as “crabs.” A report in a 2006 volume of “Sexually Transmitted Infections” notes that this once-common annoyance is becoming rather rare, perhaps to the point that the elimination of its habitat (pubic hair) may lead to the actual extinction of the pubic louse.

April is Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month. It is a good time to reflect on the potentially lifetime negative impact of this public health problem: 20 million new sexually transmitted disease cases occur each year, the annual cost of treating these being $16 billion. Half of all the new cases of sexually transmitted illness are among young people. Much of the spread of disease is due to a combination of denial and ignorance.

It is important to consider the chronic pain associated with some of these illnesses. Life can be made miserable; and love can become elusive.

Talk to your doctor about safe sex. See your doctor for regular check-ups: Early treatment could prevent irreversible damage to the reproductive tract, depending on the type of sexually transmitted disease. It is about your future.

Mark Borigini, M.D., is a board-certified rheumatologist who has devoted his career to treating illnesses that cause chronic pain and disability.

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