Like most topics about our bodies, discussions surrounding STIs have been significantly stigmatised. Recently, we’ve really started opening up about cellulite and body hair, embraced beautiful differences in body shapes, and made changes to the way we view female sexual satisfaction – and that’s fantastic – but when are we going to start talking about STIs outside of the standard “put a condom on it”?
“Herpes” is a naughty snigger and “AIDs” is braved only by those working to prevent its spread. As we’ve become more and more open about our sex lives, both with partners and solo, it seems that we’ve left STIs back in the dust; a disgraced topic sitting on a dusty shelf along with flatulence and athlete’s foot. Yet sexually transmitted diseases are just like any other disease and refusing to talk about them only fosters fear and misunderstanding. It can lead a partner to lying about their sexual history, putting the other at risk, or perhaps prevent the question from arising at all, and admits misconceptions that can leave the affected either overly afraid or far too laissez-faire.
STIs aren’t “dirty”, and they certainly shouldn’t be shameful, so let’s stop hushing up an important topic that only becomes increasingly dangerous the more we ignore it. If we can open up about orgasms, erectile disfunction and going at it solo, I’m pretty sure we have it in ourselves to de-stigmatise a problem that has the potential of affecting every one of us.
For sexual health services and information on STIs and more, check out the NHS’s ICaSH. PS, if you didn’t know, you can order a discreetly packaged STI self-checking kit to your door!