The Stigma of STIs and STDs

hoodie-shame-stiI’m thinking of doing a series of sexual health posts as a result of a conversation today about sexually transmitted infections and how common they are — and yet they are never spoken about because of the stigma.  I mean, the numbers on herpes alone are pretty shocking.  Far worse than I had imagined in the ‘African-American women in their 40s  category’ for example, the number are about 65%.  That’s right, 2 out of  3.  This comes from the center for disease control (CDC) for 2014. That’s scary.

So how many black women have you talked to that have mentioned that they have herpes? For me, it’s none.  Which is exactly the same number as every other group because nobody, not one, has ever mentioned it.  Yet let’s be conservative and say that 1 in 5 people have it  (not all groups are as afflicted as black American women in their 40s but then again, no group is even close to a low 1 in 10) and yet everyone collectively feels they cannot mention it.   Because Sexually Transmitter Infections (STIs) are somehow taboo.

I am going to point fingers at the Church as in North America, churches have long taught than anything outside of biblical ‘pure’ marital sex is a sin and leads to moral depravity.  This includes premarital sex, homosexuality, porn, lust, and everybody’s favorite hobby masturbation. Sexual sins are a different category of sin which is committed while corrupting the body, mind and your very soul while defiling your partner. With that kind of backdrop, it’s no wonder we are scared shitless to talk about it — even if those values have only been passed on via your parents who got them from their parents. But STIs have become the physical manifestation of God’s punishment for some and proof that evil sinners are punished. So if you believe this, well, I have a duty to inform you that STIs have a lot more in common with athlete’s foot than anything else in this paragraph.

Now my friend whom I had this conversation with brought up a good point: If someone catches Ebola and flies on an airplane, there is very little judgement of the person — nobody thinks, “That guy is a dirty, terrible person for catching Ebola.”  Nope, you think, “Sucks to be him.” But there’s no embarrassment about having caught that virus.  Many other viruses are just the same.  And yet, if you catch the virus from skin to skin contact of a sexual

nature…then you are judged and subject of many a joke in movies/TV.  And the guilt and shame people feel over sexual infections are far greater than say, diabetes –because that’s only a lifetime of bad eating decisions with poor exercise.

This goes for genital warts, HPV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and everyone’s favorite HIV.   Nobody feels comfortable talking about them.  But if they did, perhaps there would be far less of them around.  Not talking about these STIs is directly responsible for transmitting them.

So in doing a series of posts on STIs…what should I cover? I am thinking I will research them and find out how common they are, what they are, ways to prevent/protect yourself from them, and what to do if you get them.  I was already contacted by another blogger a few months ago and she said she’d give me permission to link to her resources and offer advice.

But this topic does fall under the broad spectrum of talking about sex, human sexuality and BDSM as guess what, STI’s are sadly a part of the fetish community too and a big part of sexual safety and I’ve written lots on BDSM safety too.  Hmmm, I am wondering if there are more ways to prevent the spread than just condoms too — I am going to assume everyone knows about condoms by now but — it would be nice if there was some kind of spray or something that you could use to protect yourself. Actually, that might be a good way to help tackle the stigma as right now, I imagine the reason why nobody is talking is…there isn’t a lot of ‘actions’ to take to protect yourself or your partner  — so the spreading keeps happening.

From research on herpes, black males were found to have about 23% occurrence between ages 20-29 and by the age of 40-49 it goes up to 42%.  Meanwhile, Black American female were found to have 39% occurrence between ages 20-29 and by the age of 40-49 it goes up to a shocking 66%! That is 2 out of every 3 black females! And yet…nobody talks about this?? And terrible jokes are made about it? (And prison rape.)

I will end with this: apparently 3-5x as many people have STIs than people have diabetes…and everybody knows a couple if you know 3 people with diabetes you probably know 15 with herpes and other STIs.  This problem one go away by pretending it doesn’t exist –we have to start talking.

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