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Why SNL's Pete Davidson is wrong about STDs

The SNL star told viewers of "Weekend Update" that sexually transmitted diseases are "all things you can cure with a shot." That's not necessarily true.

Even though "Saturday Night Live" cast member Pete Davidson joked that he may look like he has a few sexually transmitted diseases, he's no STD expert.

On the show's "Weekend Update" this past Saturday, Davidson delivered a monologue based on a real-life report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed rising rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in the U.S.

"I don’t see the problem," Davidson said. "These are all things you can cure with a shot."

While it's true that antibiotics can cure chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis infections, some strains of gonorrhea in particular are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics and are more difficult than ever to treat.

According to the World Health Organization, two-thirds of the world's countries have reported gonorrhea cases that resist all known antibiotics.

"If we lose these antibiotics because people are repeatedly getting them after repeated exposures to gonorrhea, then we’re not going to be treating it with one shot, we’re going to be treating it with multiple shots or with multiple drugs," said Dr. Michael Angarone, assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at Northwestern Medicine.

Sometimes these infections do not cause symptoms, and go undetected.

Left untreated, gonorrhea and chlamydia can lead to infertility in both men and women. What's more, pregnant women can pass the infections on to their newborns.

And congenital syphilis — also on the rise — can be deadly. Newborn deaths related to syphilis increased 22 percent from 2017 to 2018, from 77 to 94 deaths.

The CDC study published last week found more than 1.7 million cases of chlamydia were reported to the CDC in 2018, the most ever in one year. Experts attribute the rise largely to increased testing.

And infection rates for other STDs also rose. About 580,000 cases of gonorrhea and 35,000 cases of syphilis were reported.

"I understand people can be worried about STDs. I get tested all the time because I look like I might have all of them," Davidson joked.

But then the SNL star suggested syphilis is preferable to other diseases, like the flu.

"The flu can last a month, but syphilis is, like, four days. Bring it on. The flu is, like, four syphilises," Davidson said.

Fellow cast member Colin Jost told Davidson, "I'm worried that you might be giving people bad advice."

"Definitely," Davidson deadpanned.

"Weekend Update" is clearly entertainment. It's written to generate laughs, not deliver facts. The show airs on NBC, a division of NBCUniversal, which is also the parent company of NBC News.

But when Davidson speaks out about health, people pay attention.

A year ago on "SNL," Davidson talked openly about his struggles with mental health, saying there's "no shame" in relying on prescription drugs to treat such disorders.

He earned kudos from doctors who said his words helped reduce stigma surrounding mental health.

This time, not so much.

The one thing Davidson did get right during his STD monologue was this: "I'm saying to people, like, you should wear a condom."

Consistent and correct use of condoms has absolutely been shown to reduce the risk of spreading STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis (or trich), genital herpes, syphilis and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

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