Time to remove stigma around STD conversations
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016, more than two million Americans had been infected with new cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia, being the highest number of new infections recorded for these diseases in a single year, ever.
Those three STDs, plus HIV, are only a few in the large range of sexually transmitted diseases that are required by law to report to the CDC.
Herpes and a few dozen more infections are left untracked.
The CDC estimated that more than 20 million cases of STDs arise every year and usually half of those are prevalent within the ages of 15-24.
As many health physicians and teachers fail to mention, most of these diseases can lie dormant for months, years or even forever.
This can leave men, and especially women, never knowing if they have come in contact with a STD and can eventually result in serious complications for both parties.
If left untreated for a long enough period of time, women can become infertile from pelvic inflammatory diseases.
Let’s be honest, you never think you or someone you know will come in contact with a STD. It seems so unlikely, until it happens.
Mentioning it to others can feel embarrassing, awkward and unclean. Just the thought that one of those horrendously shot photos from high school health class is now swirling around your body’s system can be troubling.
While the most common ones can be treated with medical help, if you’ve never been told or met another person that has gone through this, then handling the situation can feel daunting.
“I really didn’t know what it was,” said one student, asking to remain anonymous, who contracted a STD while she was a senior in high school. “You learn about it in school’s health class, but so briefly. You know the names and the nasty pictures. I didn’t know symptoms or that it can get around so easily.”
We’ve all been in those early high school health classes where, just like the conversation regarding sex, STD information is very scarce.
Teachers show slideshows of what the very worst outcome that gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, etc. can lead to when left untreated, but never follow up with how to prevent, treat or educate others.
We’ve reached a point in time where dating apps have opened up a world of playful hookups and a push for more polyamorous play.
There is more acceptance and encouragement regarding exploring and experiencing multiple sexual partners.
Online dating is nothing new, but our approach to it has definitely changed over the last decade.
With platforms such as eHarmony, Match.com, OKCupid and others allow people to find “true love” and branch out of their reachable dating bubble. As Tinder, Grindr, Bumble and the fresh-on-the-app-store Hinge which will only pair you with an individual that shares at least one or two mutual friends, the dating sphere grows wider every day.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
Why not feel more comfortable and welcome to explore the world of dating and all its wild experiences that come with it?
There is no better time to be educated on these hushed, but very common diseases.
With the little care over health education taught to teens and even adults, it can become difficult to know when you may have a STD and if so, how to go about treating it.
So, it’s no shock when someone is surprisingly disturbed to discover they may have one.
There are sources that would automatically disagree with the notion that the rise of STD cases in the states have risen alongside increased online dating services.
However, the main issue here is that we’re “conflating correlation with causation,” VICE reporter Justin Lehmiller said last year.
Some research has proven that individuals who use apps such as “Tinder” and “Grindr” are usually more sexually active overall.
Still, whether it’s through a dating app, through casually meeting on the streets, through a mutual friend or actual friend, STDs can start and spread anywhere.
“I got it from someone who was a good friend,” said the aforementioned student. A friend who, at the time, was not aware that they had contracted the disease, so “people finding out usually have to go through a train reaction of emotions by going through a list or having to tell one or two people that they could have passed an STD to you.”
Nowadays, STD testing is far more common than it ever has been. Even diagnosing and confirming the disease, regardless of any symptoms, is more prevalent.
Tools for detection have become highly sophisticated over the last century, representative of an overall push towards a healthier cultural attitude towards STDs.
Most people unconsciously react to the names of chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, etc with a fast judgement of disgust that only stagnates the help those specific people need.
Whether you, a friend or a potential partner admits to having had or currently having a STD, it should be okay.
“I didn’t know [what] symptoms to be looking for or how it goes around. Online is frustrating because I only felt more uncomfortable and ashamed about catching it, even though it wasn’t my fault,” stated the anonymous student.
The student admitted that for starters, they just get it out of the way, even with it being scary to admit to someone else.
These diseases are treatable,when detected and diagnosed properly.
While so many can lie dormant for months, it’s not a bad idea to be tested regularly, especially if you or your partner has plans to be with others in the future.
Local Planned Parenthoods will take walk-in or scheduled appointments, which can also be made online.
SPU’s Health Services Center also offers STD, herpes and HIV/AIDS testing, and provides a list of the costs and insurances for each service offered.
Use caution, always, especially if you find it difficult to access these resources for any reason.
Wear condoms, talk to your partner(s) about previous and current relations, and keep an eye out.
We know our bodies better than anyone and sometimes can neglect them the most, too.
You never think it can happen to you or a friend, until it does. It’s never too late to start being safe.