STD Stigma

Some diseases carry a social stigma, causing society to judge or condemn people with certain conditions, perhaps none more strongly than sexually transmitted diseases. Sometimes, the shame is aimed directly at the infected individual through name-calling, shunning, or intimate partner violence. Other times, STD stigma is more general, such as when someone makes a joke about Chlamydia or equates having herpes to being immoral.

Regardless of how it’s enacted, STD stigma can be very hurtful. And the truth is there’s no logical reason to shame someone with this disease. It’s counterproductive and serves no helpful purpose. Here’s why everyone should work together to de-stigmatize STDs.

STDs are Surprisingly Common

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20 million new Americans are diagnosed with an STD every year. Keep in mind that these are the tested and documented cases, excluding HPV/genital warts and herpes, which are not required to be reported to the CDC.

According to the American Sexual Health Association, half of sexually active Americans contract an STD by age 25. Then, more than half of all sexually active people will contract HPV in their lifetime – and most will never know it. Because of this, many undocumented cases exist, putting the estimate of Americans with STDs somewhere between 56 and 65 million.

STDs and Promiscuity Aren’t Synonymous

It only takes one sexual partner to contract an STD – and sometimes it takes none at all! STDs are transmitted through more than just direct genital contact – you can also get infected from blood and sometimes saliva. Sharing towels or underwear, using someone else’s needle or razor, or having a blood transfusion can spread some STIs and STDs. Then, simply kissing or sharing the same straw can spread genital and oral herpes.

STD Testing is Important

Despite the high probability of contracting an STD, only about 12 percent of people age 15 to 25 are tested each year. Fear of the stigma associated with a positive result is the primary reason many people decide they would rather not know their status.

However, if left untreated, some STDs can cause infertility, ectopic pregnancies, stillbirth and increased risk for HIV. With STDs at record-level highs, it’s more important than ever for sexually active people to know their STD status so they can receive treatment and help prevent spreading the disease.

Do Your Part to Help Eradicate STD Stigma

Pay attention to the way you talk about STDs, and think of people with this condition as a group facing discrimination. Don’t use metaphors like “dirty” or “damaged goods” to describe people with STDs. Become more educated about sex and the risks that come with it. And if you think you might have an STD, get tested!

Perimeter Clinic in Atlanta, Georgia offers discrete, anonymous STD testing so you can find out your status while maintaining your privacy. After all, it’s your decision who you tell about your diagnosis. To learn more about our testing process, or to schedule an appointment, contact us at 678-999-8263.

Categories : STD

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