Thinking Differently about STIs
“The most important point is (to) talk about these things, we need to talk about our STDs. We need to inform each other about our STDs. Whenever there (is) someone sitting in front of us and (they) tell me, “he gave me syphilis”, and he’s complaining, I’m first of all telling him to thank god you have these people around you that inform you that they got an STD, you should thank them and keep them warm… have sex with them again”
Dr. Martin Viehweger
What an unfathomable idea, have sex with the person who exposed us to an STI, but truly the logic is there. Anyone who has, or has had an STI knows the shame, embarrassment and courage it takes to tell another person you may have given them an STI. These individuals truly care, and care enough to potentially ruin a relationship to ensure you get the care you need. As a sex educator, our training requires us to learn all about STIs on a biological level, and truly the infections that do the least harm have the hardest stigma. Take HIV for example, the lack of medical support and political abandonment created the perfect storm for mass stigmatization of HIV. Labeling HIV and AIDS as a death sentence upon its emergence in the 1980s. Now, in fact, in 2021 we have countless breakthroughs to control the transmission of the virus.
Prescription cocktails can bring infection levels to an undetectable level, meaning there is NO chance of transmission between partners. We also have PrEP and Truvada (generic) a once a day pill, that creates barriers around your cells to prevent the virus from infiltrating and mutating. The effectiveness is 99%, when taken as directed and it comes into effect after 7 days. Offering protection to partners of people with HIV and anyone seeking to preemptively protect themselves from the virus.
Whereas, gonorrhea is an evasive, ever evolving infection that has mutated strains to a level of antibiotic resistance. Reeking havoc on your body, as well as scarring your reproductive organs and causing irreversible damage. All of these bacterial STIs (Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis) often do more damage than the viral ones
Especially because of their asymptomatic tendencies and frequency of reinfection. Yet having herpes of HIV equates to you being a social pariah. Both of which have resources to make symptoms manageable and almost nonexistent.
Destigmatizing & Educating
How can we fight against miseducation and stigma? We can begin by listening to the experts; all of which include medical professionals, sexual health educators, peer health educators, and health organizations. Seek out individuals or organizations with medical credentials or education, as well as unbiased parties. Its not just about the resources though, seek to educate yourself on media literacy. Non-scholarly sources, like magazines, pay to publish journals and most online news sources will often write for click bait and views not to educate; put your support in the right sources and people, look deeper to find your answers. Finally, speak out against the stigma, if you come across someone giving or publishing inaccurate information, challenge that. The only way to make change is to be the change.
If you are interested in further information on PrEP, sexual culture and stigmatization from a professional check out Dr. Martin Viehweger, featured on episode four of the Sex School podcast. Dr. Martin speaks very abstractly about HIV while challenging stigmas and sexual culture, both of which perpetuate “us versus them” narratives. Find the link here, and thanks again for reading. XO