Destigmatizing STDs

STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases, have a strong social stigma. These negative reactions often arise from people who are judgmental about or condemn sex. There are many misconceptions associated with STDs as a result of the lack of public awareness.

STDs are more common than we realize. According to the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), one in two sexually active persons will contract an STD by age 25 and more than half of all people will have an STD at some point in their lifetime.

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The newer term STI, or sexually transmitted infection, can help destigmatize STDs by replacing the word “disease” with “infection." STIs are infections that are fairly common and can affect everyone. STDs do not discriminate against gender, age, race, etc. STDs that are curable include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. STDs with no cure are herpes and HIV. HPV is the most common STD in the US and appears to be asymptomatic. Although there is no cure, HPV can go away on its own and vaccinations exist for further protection. Most STDs are either asymptomatic or the symptoms lay dormant for years. Regular testing is recommended. Unfortunately, a positive diagnosis can be detrimental and many people would rather not get tested and continue to unknowingly pass it on.  

In order to destigmatize STDs, we have to build awareness and provide better sexual education (from qualified teachers). People need to learn that STDs are fairly common and some of them can even be easily treated. Safe sex should be practiced at all times. Regular check-ups should be encouraged and emphasized, rather than viewed as an embarrassment and place to avoid. There is more knowledge about STDs today. However, in order to destigmatize STDs, this knowledge must be shared, rather than ridiculed and disregarded.