Time to get real about STDs and STIs

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Taboos die hard, even in the era of sexual revolution.
Former scarlet letter acts like homosexuality, adultery and promiscuity have become more accepted in 21st century American society. Not so sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Those taboos live on.
STD/STIs can brand people for life. Labels such as “promiscuous” and “unclean” can be burned into the reputations of those found to have STD/STIs.
There is be no propaganda campaigns to shun those who have been infected, but the stigma exists. Co-workers, peers, friends and even family can spread the shame.
Off-handed comments like “gross” and “nasty” are nonchalantly tossed around STD/STIs, damaging sufferers and creating a fear of testing.
Avoiding STD/STI testing is dangerous. Testing is a blessing, not a curse, even if the news is not wonderful. Oozing, sores, odors and burning do not mean that STDs are present. Sometimes STD/STIs have no symptoms but can still cause health problems and be transmitted to others.
The same goes for partner’s sexual health status. Just because they do not “look” like they are infected does not necessarily mean that they are disease free.
Encouragement from health classes and Planned Parenthood are helpful, but not enough to get more people tested. The stigma of STD/STIs must be abolished if people are to feel comfortable being tested regularly.
People who have contracted an STD/STI are not dirty, nasty or necessarily promiscuous.
Contrary to popular belief, sexually transmitted diseases and infections are fairly common.
The Center for Disease Control recently estimates there are 20 million new curable and incurable infections annually, not including diseases not reported to the CDC, such as genital warts and herpes.
Research by the American Sexual Heath Association concluded that more than half of all Americans will have an STD/STI at some point in their live. Half of all new STD/STIs will occur in people between the ages of 15 to 24. High school and college students are the primary victims.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Scarlett Letter” is fading into the dusty shelves of American literature, but the shame game is alive when STDs and STIs are the topic. Sometimes it is best to ignore the folks with the hang-ups and play it smart. Getting tested regularly is the wise thing to do.

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