The SheHawk: Remember, STDs are not gross

Cierra Noffke, Staff Writer

STDs are clouded in a negative stigma. They invoke feelings of shame, embarrassment and filth, despite the fact that millions of Americans report having an STD of some kind.

In 2013, the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there were 20 million new infections every year.

For context, this is equal to the entire state of Florida (pop. 21, 477, 737) contracting an STD.

That is a lot of STDs, and those are only the reported cases. Odds are plenty of cases were unreported (and possibly unnoticed) because of the persistent shame surrounding STDs.

The shame keeps us from reaching out, seeking medical condition and talking to our partners. If you feel disgusted and ashamed for having an STD, it is likely you will procrastinate seeking professional treatment for it.

If you do not have an STD but you know you would still feel gross about contracting one, it is extremely likely you will avoid talking to your partner about it. It is also extremely likely you will not practice safe sex.

Do you know where all of these shame-filled paths lead? Into the land of STDs—the kind that can progress into worse infections if left untreated.

Shame circles back to itself in a dizzying and sometimes dehumanizing loop. You are ashamed with yourself for having messed up. You think you are “ruined” and not worth being with. You are reluctant to tell your partners, friends or family because of how they will react.

The truth is most STDs are manageable, even the incurable ones like HPV and HIV. You can easily resume your life as a human being after contracting an STD. Shame is what stops you.

For women in particular, the stigma of STDs is stronger. That is because women are slowly being allowed to express their sexuality in the way men are. Slut-shaming is still a thing. A woman who contracts an STD will have the name pinned onto the front of her shirt for everyone to see.

Let’s be adults and not shame ourselves and each other for bodily functions (sexually transmitted diseases being one of them) and let’s attempt to be kinder to ourselves and to each other. Be responsible. Talk to your partner. Get screened and tested. Use protection.

And please, for the love of everything holy and true, stop labeling STDs (and the people who contract them) as gross.

Happy Valentine’s Day. XOXO.