Dr. Oliver Bacon presents on history and stigma surrounding STIs

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Mia Calzolaio, Staff Writer

This Thursday, Dr. Oliver Bacon, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco in the HIV division at San Francisco General Hospital, presented on the current state of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. The workshop covered the history of the STI discussion, the symptoms and transmission of STIs, and national trends of each main STI. Attendees included science teacher Dr. Matthew Wallenfang’s AP Biology class. 

At the start of the presentation, Bacon stated that there is both good and bad news regarding STIs in the country. “There is a new approach to HIV prevention and treatment,” he said. “It’s called universal testing and treatment, plus Prep, and there’s good evidence that it leads to a decline in cases. The bad news is, there isn’t a new approach to STI prevention and treatment yet, but one is in the works.” 

During the presentation, Bacon also discussed the origins of the many names for STIs, showcased war propaganda that warned soldiers of the dangers of STIs, explained his role at the health clinic, and described how each STI can be treated. He showed surveillance data that highlighted the steadiness of AIDS cases in the country and the increase in cases of the other main STIs across the nation. 

Bacon was invited to speak by Nina Gaither (12), who knows him through her father. After hearing about Pride Week, Gaither was inspired to invite Bacon because she knew that he ran sexual health clinics in San Francisco, and she was interested in hearing about the role these clinics played in helping the LGBTQ+ community, she said. 

Gaither appreciated that Bacon spent time discussing the stigma around STIs and the factors that play into such stigma, she said. “I think that was very interesting — that HIV and STDs and STIs really play on a lot of other issues surrounding healthcare, access to healthcare, and then what different communities are willing to speak out against.”