STD Sigma: Navigating Life With STD Successfully

Society improves its conversations around different taboo topics every day, allowing people to feel more comfortable having positive discussions about controversial issues, especially those related to sexuality. 

So why does the sexually transmitted disease (STD) stigma remain? According to a household sample survey from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in every five U.S. residents has a sexually transmitted infection. Despite this fact, society still enables the STD stigma in these modern times of sex-positivity.  

Below, our team at Rapid STD Testing will discuss this STD-related shame and how society can conquer it. 

Why Is There a Stigma With STD?

Why is there a stigma with STD? Judgmental attitudes surrounding STDs exist everywhere for quite a few reasons. 

Societal Stigma

Society hushes many topics surrounding sexual behavior, which makes a common disease appear shameful. The perceived STD-related stigma has existed for many years with minimal improvement, but why?

  • Lack of sex education: Children learn very little about sexual activity in school. At most, kids may hear about the dangers of an STD with exaggerations about how awful they are. 
  • Environmental factors: Aside from education, other environmental factors impact children’s impressions, such as religious beliefs, family opinions, and television shows.
  • Negative associations: The media often refer to STDs in degrading ways through music, entertainment, or social media. Negative associations can cause people with common diseases, like genital warts, to appear promiscuous or “dirty.”

Internalized Stigma

Because of the societal STD stigma, many people experience an internalized stigma surrounding their sexual health, making it hard to process the diagnosis. Self-stigma occurs when you feel ashamed, embarrassed, or angry about your diagnosis. 

People react to self-stigmatization in a few different ways that can negatively impact mental health:

  • Isolation: Often, the perceived STD-related stigma causes people to withdraw themselves from peers to avoid judgment. Isolation also includes closing yourself “down” internally and not discussing your feelings with close friends. 
  • One-size-fits-all attitude: After diagnosis, some people will believe that existing STD stereotypes apply to them. For example, you may falsely assume that your sexual partners will not want to be around you again. 
  • Self-deprecation: Self-stigma often leads people to believe that the negative comments about their diagnosis are true. If you constantly hear people publicly shaming those with STDs, you may begin thinking the same things about yourself. 

Consequences of the STD Stigma

The stigma around STDs creates consequences for the individual and society. People may experience mental and physical health issues, while society suffers increased infection rates and discrimination.  

Mental Health Issues

The internalized stigma displays how society’s impression of STDs can drastically affect individuals’ perceptions of themselves. Battling with self-image, confidence, and isolation can create severe mental health issues like anxiety, depression, stress, and more. 

Society often also stigmatizes mental health issues, making it twice as difficult for a person with an STD to seek help for their emotional well-being. More mental health issues related to STDs exist in the U.S. than in countries where the stigma of an STD is low.

Increased Physical Health Problems

Treatment options for STDs often feel intimidating and embarrassing. When people feel ashamed to see health care providers about their symptoms or diagnosis, the condition will only worsen. Untreated STDs can lead to many different health problems, some creating long-term damage. 

The first step to feeling better is understanding and accepting a diagnosis. If you believe you may have an STD, you should put your health first. Order a rapid STD test from Rapid STD Testing for judge-free and private results. 

Escalating Infection Rates

Since society severely stigmatizes STDs, many people feel afraid to discuss their sexual health status with partners, leading to increased infection rates. With a lack of proper education, you might also spread STDs without even realizing it. 

The CDC found that in 2014, 1.9 million cases of STDs arose. By 2019, that number reached 2.6 million. Each year, STDs become more common, yet the conversation remains closed and taboo.

Worsened Discrimination

Many groups of people experience severe marginalization due to a history of discrimination. The STD stigma worsens discrimination by shaming certain people more than others. People of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community experience far more backlash surrounding STDs than everyone else. 

If you’re wondering how to prevent STD stigma, you can do your part to help break the stereotypes, which we will cover next. 

Breaking Stigma Around STDs

Breaking the stigma around STDs is massively important as it can improve the health and mental well-being of millions while overall bettering how we function as a society. While you cannot change the world by yourself, you can do your part to work toward opening a positive conversation about STDs. 

Learn Facts About Your Condition

A leading cause of STD shame is a lack of education. Since people do not entirely understand STDs, many ultimately make unfair judgments. 

For example, people often do not realize that getting an STD if both partners are clean is possible and common. Misconceptions create more questions like: 

Educating yourself on these answers will help you break the societal pattern of false STD assumptions. If you have an STD, learning about your condition will help you understand different treatment options and improve your mental health by realizing the actual scope of your diagnosis. 

Getting Tested and Seeking Medical Attention

Many people can have symptom-free STDs that will go undetected for many years. While you may not experience health troubles, you might unknowingly spread them to others.

Even if you feel fine, as a sexually active adult, you should regularly test yourself for STDs. If you notice symptoms or just want a recommended checkup, you can conveniently order a 10-panel STD test online from Rapid STD Testing. 

After receiving a diagnosis, you should seek medical attention to treat your STD and learn how to manage your symptoms and sexual activities appropriately. A doctor will inform you about different options, how to practice safe sex, and how you can avoid contracting additional STDs.  

If you learn that you have an STD, you should disclose this information to any sexual partners. Conversations about STDs can be challenging, but openly sharing can help reduce negative associations. 

Understand That Having an STD Does Not Say Anything About Your Sexual History

Many assume that people with STDs must have had sexual intercourse with dozens of partners or more. You can contract an STD from only one sexual encounter, meaning that STDs share zero relation with your entire sexual history. 

Additionally, society relates certain STDs, like HIV, to particular communities. Remember that anyone can contract any STD from just one encounter, and sometimes, they might inherit it. 

STDs Are Common, and They Are Just Infections

STDs say nothing about who you are as a person. Like having a common cold, you may experience annoying symptoms and accidentally spread your condition to loved ones. You would never feel ashamed about catching a cold, nor should you feel embarrassed about contracting an STD. 

Sexually transmitted diseases are just infections. Many people feel less negatively toward the word “infections” since it displays how transmittable and common the condition is. Using the term “STI” (for sexually transmitted infection) is more politically correct than STD. 

When talking about the subject, try using positive language and avoid words like “clean,” which may indicate that “non-clean” results mean someone is “dirty.”

Conquer the Stigma and Get Tested Today

Conquer the STD stigma by getting tested. Visit a Rapid STD Testing center near you or order same-day STD testing from our Rapid STD Testing site online. Call us today at (866) 872-1888 with any questions.