Let’s Discuss: The Stigma Attached to STIs
As a society, we love sex. Whether we are discussing it, watching it, or actually doing it, sex is a huge part of our culture. However, STIs still seem to be considered the part of sex we’d rather hide away than discuss candidly.
I feel the reasons for our attitude towards STIs is pretty obvious; nobody likes to admit they are infected with something that has the potential to turn their penis into a pus-filled mound, or that they break out in warts whenever they are stressed. Just those sentences alone are enough to put anybody off talking about them. However, they really are a problem and they aren’t going away anytime soon. I can’t help but think that the more open and non-judgmental discussions we have about them, it could massively help eradicate the stigma, and (hopefully) lead to less STIs overall.
STIs are something, when discussing sex, that you are probably likely to brush over, have you ever had first hand experience with them as opposed to shout of your diagnosis from the rooftops. The reaction you’re likely to receive if admitting having something will probably be one of disgust and judgement. Also, in my experience, a reaction particularly aimed at girls, is to be called something along the lines of dirty, a slut or a whore; any derogatory term which implies they have been ‘sleeping around’. What people forget is that it only takes unprotected sex with one person to contract an STI. Sleeping with a lot of people may increase the chance, but sex with twenty people using a condom carries less risk of contracting an STI than sex with just one person, condom free. This is one of the biggest stigmas attached to STIs and is pretty unequal in regards to gender reaction, but that’s a topic for another day.
Furthermore, many judgements come from people who, when they are asked if they have ever been for an STI test, are most likely to turn up their nose and act as if they are above such procedures, or have a reaction that is one of disgust at the thought of revealing a certain part of their sexual history to someone. But these are the people more likely to have them, or at least to never find out if they have one. Ignorance is certainly not bliss when it comes to STIs. It irresponsible and let’s face it, a bit immature. If you are old enough and comfortable enough to have sex, you have to face the reality that STIs do exist and nobody is immune to contracting them.
A Lack Of Understanding
One of the biggest problems about is the number of misconceptions about STI tests which exacerbates the STI dilemma. GUM clinics at university, for example. provide an accessible, safe and confidential environment which enable a free test. However, so many people are put off because of thinking they are going to have to expose their genitals or experience an uncomfortable type of swabbing. This is not the case, and more clarity over what an STI test involves may encourage more people to go.
It is the 21st century, sex is everywhere yet STIs are still a taboo. All other types of health are taken seriously; you go to the dentist, to the doctors, the optometrist etc. so why not take your sexual health as seriously? It recently came to my attention that a university was offering an amount of money to whichever sports team or society can get the most members to attend the sexual health clinic. This goes to show just how much convincing some people take to go, but how important it is that people do.
What do you think can be done to change the way that society views STIs? Leave a comment below, or Tweet us @EatMoreCakeUK.