(Chuck Muth) – Nevada has a well-known reputation for often being at the top of an awful lot of “bad” lists.
Well, here we go again.
According to an article in this morning’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has determined that “Nevada leads the nation in…the rate of syphilis,” a potentially life-threatening sexually transmitted disease (STD).
“In Clark County,” the paper reports, “there were 1,006 reported cases of syphilis last year, a 153 percent increase from 2013.”
“This is totally unacceptable,” declared Dr. Joe Iser, the Southern Nevada Health District’s chief health officer, noting the disease is absolutely preventable. “We should not receive one report of congenital syphilis.”
“Clark County has had comparatively high STD rates in recent years,” the RJ report continued, “leading the nation in primary and secondary syphilis in 2014.”
Individuals having sex with unfamiliar partners should use condoms, Marlo Tonge, office manager for the health district’s Office of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance, told the RJ, noting that anyone who thinks they may have been exposed should “Go get tested.”
Now, here’s the thing…
Since commercial sex work was legalized in certain rural Nevada counties way back in 1971, not a single case of AIDS/HIV or other sexually transmitted disease, including syphilis, has been traced back to a legal Nevada brothel where the women are tested EVERY WEEK.
On the other hand, legal brothels continue to be banned in Clark County despite the fact that “Communicable diseases like syphilis are often brought to Las Vegas by tourists” – the engine driving the state’s economy.
“Condoms are required for sex in the state’s brothels,” Dr. Iser told the RJ, “but there’s no way to regulate unprotected sex among illicit sex workers.”
Fortunately, a bill to ban Nevada’s legal rural brothels has been killed in the Legislature this session, though there’s still a longshot possibility it could be brought back from the dead before the session ends.
On the other hand, a bill to create an interim legislative study committee (ACR6) to look into the business operations of Nevada’s legal brothels continues to work its way through the process.
Unfortunately, the proposed study does not include looking at the currently ILLEGAL commercial sex industry in Clark County where the serious problem of sexually transmitted diseases is so prevalent.
If the Legislature is going to spend time and tax dollars to do a study of commercial sex work and workers, it ought to do it right and look at the ENTIRE market, not just Nevada’s highly-successful and proven-safe legal brothels.
Then maybe we can get ourselves off at least one “bad” list.
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a limited-government grassroots advocacy organization, and government affairs counsel to the Nevada Brothel Association