The stigma around STDs has been prevalent for decades. However, our lack of understanding and judgment concerning them is only creating more problems. If we were more open to talking about sexual health, we would be able to work towards better understanding STDs and why they aren’t nearly as bad as we think they are. Here are some reasons why we should stop the stigma around STDs.
According to the American Sexual Health Association, “one in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25.” Additionally, ASHA reports that half of the 20 million reported STDs a year are among people in the 15-25 year old age group. So if you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve already had one, are going to get one, or know someone who’s had one. STDs are incredibly common in our society, but are treated as “rare” and “dirty.” If getting an STD is as natural as contracting the common cold, why is there so much shame associated with it? Which brings me to my next point.
It all boils down to how sexual education is approached in our society. There’s a lot of guilt that comes with having sex, and even more with contracting an STD. If having sex is the root of the problem, STDs are only a symptom of a larger issue. If we started normalizing sex and educating people on it, there would consequently be less of a stigma around STDs. The more we don’t talk about sexual health, the more it perpetuates the stigma that having an STD is unusual and outlandish.
If there was less stigma around STDs, more people would get tested, which would in turn result in less STDs. In the fight against STDs, we’re our own worst enemy. ASHA reports that young people account for half of STDs, but only 12% of young adults were tested within the last year. Many people put off being tested because of what they’re afraid they might find. But if we were less afraid of the potential results, we could better treat anything that might come up, and prevent it from spreading to our partners.
The stigma around STDs makes conversations about being tested hard for everyone involved. A lot of the time, people are afraid to ask because of their partner’s potential reaction. Their partner might take it personally and get upset because in their mind, being asked if they’re clean means that their partner thinks they’re “dirty.” But getting an STD doesn’t make you “unclean” or “stupid;” you could sleep with one or two people your entire life and contract one, or twenty people in two months and get one. If you aren’t promiscuous, that’s fine; if you are, that’s fine too. What matters is that you’re getting tested regularly, both for your safety and your partner’s. Being asked if you’ve been tested isn’t a sign of judgment or apprehension, it’s common sense.
Contrary to what you might believe, having an STD doesn’t make you “gross” or “unloveable.” The majority of STDs these days are treatable, and the ones that aren’t are manageable with modern medicine. If we treated getting an STD like getting any other type of infection, we wouldn’t be so quick to judge ourselves. We shouldn’t let the accident of contracting an STD weigh over our heads and make us feel like any less of a person or sexual being.