Statistics Of Babies Born With Syphilis Doubles Since 2013
Congenital syphilis is only a part of the nation's growing STD crisis. According to the CDC, the three most easily treatable sexually transmitted diseases — chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — rose nearly 10 percent in 2017.
The number of babies born infected with syphilis in the United States has more than doubled since 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a report released Tuesday, the CDC said the number of cases of congenital syphilis, in which the disease is passed from the mother to the baby, increased 153 percent — from 362 in 2013 to 918 in 2017.
“When a baby gets syphilis, it means the system has failed that mother repeatedly, both before and during her pregnancy,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors.
“If STD prevention programs had anywhere near the support they need, no new mom would ever have to cope with this devastating diagnosis,” he said.
Syphilis is easily treatable with antibiotics. But when untreated in the mother, it increases the risk of miscarriage and newborn death. Children born with the disease can suffer severe health consequences, including deformed bones, blindness or deafness.
About 70 percent of the cases of congenital syphilis in the U.S. over the span studied were found in California, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas.
Harvey said women should be tested before becoming pregnant, soon after becoming pregnant, and throughout the pregnancy.
One-third of the mothers who gave birth to babies with congenital syphilis had been tested. But the tests were performed too late in their pregnancies to prevent the infection of the fetuses, or the women became infected after being tested.
“That we have any cases of syphilis among newborns, let alone an increasing number, is a failure of the health care system,” Harvey said.
Congenital syphilis is only a part of the nation’s growing STD crisis. According to the CDC, the three most easily treatable sexually transmitted diseases — chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — rose nearly 10 percent in 2017 to an all-time high of nearly 2.3 million cases. That eclipsed the previous record total from 2016 by more than 200,000 cases. (VOA)
Back in the day, when the “grandmas and grandpas” of the Native American Church (NAC) needed peyote, they would make a 2,000-kilometer pilgrimage from the reservations of South Dakota to the tiny town of Mirando City, Texas, close to the U.S. border with Mexico. That’s where they could find Amada Cardenas, a Mexican-American woman who at the time was the only peyote dealer in Texas.
Cardenas was not Native American, nor was she a member of the NAC. But she understood how sacred the medicine was to church members and defended its use as a religious sacrament to those who sought to ban it.
“After Amada’s passing, the peyote distribution system lost heart and seemed to be about monetary compensation,” said Iron Rope, former chairman of the Native American Church of North America (NACNA) and today chairman of the NAC of South Dakota. He is concerned that the remaining three or four peyote dealers in Texas — all non-Native — don’t give “the medicine” the reverence they should.
“They don’t make prayerful offerings when they harvest,” Iron Rope said. “We’ve heard reports about intoxicated harvesters. Sometimes, the medicine that comes to us was mushy or small, and the harvesting technique was not one that would allow regrowth.”
Careless and sometimes illegal harvesting, along with increased land and resource development in Texas, has led to a decline in peyote’s quality and availability. Prices have gone up, and church members worry the cactus, now listed as a vulnerable species, could become endangered.
In 2013, NACNA began researching ways to conserve peyote and its natural habitat.
Peyote, or Lophophora williamsii, is a succulent that contains psychoactive alkaloids and only grows in southern Texas and a handful of states in northern Mexico.
Indigenous people have used it ceremonially and medicinally for centuries, as noted by 16th century Spanish missionaries, who condemned it as an evil. Peyote use persisted, however, and by the late 1800s, had spread to present-day Oklahoma, where tribes adapted it to suit their individual spiritual traditions.
In the face of government efforts to ban peyote, peyotists in the early 20th century sought to incorporate as a formal religion. In 1918, an intertribal group established the NAC, which has evolved to include tens of thousands of members across dozens of tribal nations. Members view the church as an important component of healing from historic trauma and reconnecting to tradition.
Peyote was banned in the United States in 1970, but the law was later amended to allow peyote to be used in “bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church.”
Texas allows several peyoteros registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to harvest and sell peyote, but only to card-carrying NAC members with proven Native American ancestry.
‘A beautiful ceremony’
Unlike other religious denominations, said Iron Rope, the NAC is not a unified theology.
“Different variations of the ceremony have come into play,” he said. “There are Christian aspects to the NAC today and traditional aspects, as well.”
Wynema Morris, a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and an NAC member, grew up with an understanding of the sacredness of peyote and the religious etiquette surrounding its use.
“It was my own grandfather, Samuel Thomas Gilpin, who actually received peyote early on from the Winnebagos, a neighboring tribe, and passed it on to his sons, my uncles,” she said.
Peyote is much misunderstood and maligned, she said, viewed by many anthropologists through the lens of colonial prejudice.
“I don’t like their use of the word ‘hallucinations,’” she said. “You don’t use peyote to get high. You use it to pray and communicate with God — the same God everyone else talks to.”
She described all-night services of prayer, song and meditation.
“The ceremony is beautiful,” she said. “The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”
In 2013, NACNA began looking at ways to conserve and sustain peyote for future generations of indigenous Americans, Mexicans and Canadians.
“It was our intent to eventually have our own land and be able to have our own peyote dealer who could understand our concerns as the Native American Church,” said Iron Rope.
In 2017, NACNA and partner organizations formally launched the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI). With funding from the Riverstyx Foundation, a nonprofit that supports research of medicinal uses of psychoactive plants, IPCI purchased 245 hectares (605 acres) of land in Thompsonville, Texas, to serve as “Sacred Peyote Gardens.”