When I give talks on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) to young people, this is one of the commonest questions. If an STI is only ever caught from someone else with an STI, logically we find ourselves asking where it all began. How did the first person catch an STI if no one else had it?
STIs only appear when sex is misused and only continue to spread when sex is practised outside faithful marriage…
Before we try to answer the question directly, first an observation – STIs are only around because sex has been misused. I met an Indian doctor who explained that in his local community there was a very strong taboo (rule of society) that sex was kept for marriage. As a result there were no STI clinics because there were no, or nearly no STIs (nearly because not everyone might have been keeping the taboo, even if they claimed to be). So STIs only appear when sex is misused and only continue to spread when sex is practised outside faithful marriage. If everyone kept sexual intimacy for marriage, no one would bring an STI to their marriage and no one would catch an STI in marriage. That is because there is only one way to catch an STI; as the name implies, sexually transmitted infections are only caught through intimate sexual contact (including oral-genital contact).
How the misuse of sex actually introduced an STI into the human population is a matter for speculation. Sometimes, as in the case of some infections acquired through homosexual sex, normal bacteria may turn against the body when the body is misused. Normal bowel bacteria then cause disease. In other cases viruses may enter the body through blood to blood contact which is only possible because the body has been damaged by misuse – then a blood-borne virus can become a sex-spread virus. Other STIs may arise from the mutation of a virus. A mutation is a small change in the DNA or RNA genetic material in the virus. Such a change can turn a harmless virus into a disease-producing one. This change gets passed on when the virus replicates and may cause a new disease in someone who acquires the virus through intimate sexual contact.
The term ‘misuse’ is one way of describing the breaking of our Maker’s rules, otherwise known as ‘sin’, and we know that death and disease came into the world through sin (Romans 5:12 ). The meteoric rise in STI rates in our society is a sobering example of the fact that there are consequences to breaking our Maker’s design for sex.
- Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”