Why does society find sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to be so scary? The answer to this question partly has to do with the fact that much of society shames the open discussion of sex, therefore shaming any discussion of STIs even further. No sexually active person wants to feel like an outcast, and many people who are diagnosed with an STI feel this way.
That’s a sad reality. The shame associated with having an STI is often the result of larger social stigmas that are perpetuated through everyday myths. Here are some common myths that perpetuate shame and stigma:
“People with STIs are ‘dirty’ or ‘unclean’.”
Let’s get one thing straight: experiencing an STI does not make someone ‘unclean’. A sexually transmitted infection is just that- an infection. This has nothing to do with personal hygiene.
“Someone with many sexual partners probably has an STI” or “To get infected you have to sleep around”.
Whether you are very sexually active or not, the key is to use protection. An individual who has sex with one person without using protection probably has more to worry about than the individual who has many sexual partners and uses protection. It doesn’t matter how many people you sleep with; if you don’t use protection, you’re at risk. Some individuals have sex for the very first time and become infected, simply because they didn’t use protection. It is also important to note that there is nothing wrong with people who have multiple sexual partners.
The idea that having a lot of sex makes you a bad person is a negative view of sex that contributes to stigma. These are just some of the myths in society that perpetuate the shame and stigma associated with STIs. When individuals are faced with stigma (a culturally enforced idea), those individuals should not feel as if they need to respond with shame.
Note: The term "sexually transmitted infection" can be more broadly applied than the somewhat more common term "Sexually Transmitted Disease". This is due to the fact that many infections do not show adverse symptoms to their host. When abnormal symptoms arise, the term "disease" is more applicable.