This post is more of a perspective broadener. I know my perspective is controversial, so I am asking you to stretch yourself to perhaps think about things a little differently.
I have been with clients when they first get diagnosed with STD(s). They usually completely panic when they are first diagnosed, then over time they calm down about it. BUT the big question is always about disclosing. So my question is this: why is there so much stigma surrounding STDs?
I already feel people’s jaws dropping, so here’s the education piece:
- Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are treated easily with medication. One cycle usually, and you are good to go, meaning you are no longer contagious.
- Herpes, the one that gets the most heat these days, and it’s HIGHLY treatable. Yes, doctors say you can transmit it if you don’t have an outbreak, but that is highly unlikely. So if you take the medication like you’re supposed to and/or use protection, it’s highly unlikely that you’d pass it. Also, herpes is a virus that can be dormant in our systems for a while before we have an outbreak; therefore, it can be very difficult to know where or from whom you contracted it. Oh and let’s not forget that the statistics show that 90% of adults have been exposed by age 50, and like most statistics, this number is probably actually higher.
- HPV: this virus has several forms. Genital warts is the one that seems to freak people out the most, but that is easily treated, just like a wart anywhere else on the body. The more dangerous strains of HPV actually cause cancer, and guess what? Most people aren’t getting tested for that on a regular basis. Wanna know why? Because it’s so damn common! They say 75% of the population has been exposed, and once again, that number is probably higher.
- HIV/AIDS: this one is close to my heart, because I work a lot with the LGBT community, where this is a much more common diagnosis. It’s wild to me that although it’s been around and researched a lot the past 30 years, people are still so ignorant about it. This diagnosis is so effectively treated that many people have “undetectable” viral loads. Some of my clients have been told by their doctors that they have a very low risk of passing it, even if they aren’t using protection (and you can look that up!). In addition to that, there is a newer drug now, called PREP, that reduces the risk of contracting HIV if you are having unprotected sex.
So if all of the above is true, and a person is being responsible with their own self care, why is there such judgment surrounding STDs?
The risk of STDs is present in every sexual interaction. Now I know saying that is assuming people have multiple partners, but I would ask, when can we be honest about our sexual history? It’s 2021 people! Our close minded nature surrounding sex has not worked for us. The average age of our first sexual encounter is usually 16/17 and the average age of first marriage is between 27 and 29. Do the math!
Of course I don’t tell clients not to disclose their status to people. That can be very damaging should you want to purse the relationship later. BUT I do think that the stigma surrounding STDs is outdated, ignorant, and unnecessary. I think it’s unfair that people get looked at differently for being honest about their status, especially because we have MEDICATION that WORKS! I mean, it’s a different world then it used to be with all the ways we have of taking care of ourselves.
The bottom line to me is that if you’ve ever had unprotected sex with ANYONE (husband or not), you could have gotten an STD. In fact, you can contract an STD through just oral sex. Remember that for every partner you sexually engage with, you are choosing to take a risk, because you’re not only exposed to them but anyone else they’ve been exposed to (unprotected). And let’s be honest, people aren’t using protection like we’d hope. Men and women both prefer not to, and when things are heated, we aren’t very rational. So why are we still so judgy about “body count” (number of sexual partners) and STDs? I really encourage you to think about it.