Stand strong against the stigma of STIs

insideout
March 1, 2012
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Carla Brown

SHEC Media

It can be very traumatic to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. You might feel ashamed or angry. These are normal responses, but it’s important to remember that this doesn’t have to change your life significantly. Here are some tips for coping with an STI diagnosis.

If you haven’t seen a doctor to be diagnosed, you should do so immediately. Many STIs are curable, but you won’t know if treatment is an option for you unless you consult a medical professional.

Even for infections that can’t be cured, like herpes or HPV, measures can be taken to prevent transmission and reduce pain.

Testing can be done on campus at the Student Wellness Centre, or at a number of sexual health clinics run by Hamilton Public Health.

The schedule and location of these clinics can be found at Hamilton.ca (go to Public Health and Social Services, then to Sexual Health and, finally, to Sexual Health Clinics).

You should be aware that some STIs, namely HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea, must be reported by your doctor to the Hamilton Public Health department.

You will also be required by law to provide the names of your previous sexual partners so that they can be anonymously notified if you choose not to notify them yourself.

If you’ve been diagnosed, it’s easy to want to blame yourself or someone else. But blame isn’t a productive response.

Some STIs can be dormant before they show symptoms, so it can be difficult to know what sexual encounter resulted in transmission.

Getting an STI from your partner isn’t necessarily a sign that they have been unfaithful; one of you could have been infected by a previous partner.

Having an STI does not define who you are, and is generally not an intentional fault.

They are very common, and they don’t mean that you’ve been sexually promiscuous (not that there’s anything wrong with that either).

It might feel like it sometimes, but having an STI does not mean that your love life is over. Many people find happy relationships after being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection.

But it is important to share this information about your health with any potential sex partners.

Some infections, like herpes and HPV, can be spread by skin-to-skin contact, even when you’re wearing a condom.

It might be helpful to have a rehearsed script when talking to potential partners in case you get nervous.

It is better to tell partners before a sexual encounter so they can make informed decisions about their own health. This gives people an opportunity to share their sexual history in return.

Many STIs are so common that your partner probably won’t be surprised or uncomfortable. And sex is much better when you’re both honest with each other.

You might find it helpful to do some research about the STI you have. When you first see the doctor, they might not have a lot of time to explain your infection to you.

In addition, many doctors aren’t experienced with sexual health and may not be familiar with new advances in treatment protocols or the odds of transmission.

Doing some background research will help you to understand what your doctor is saying and be able to ask the right questions.

Being an active participant in your healthcare can prevent you from feeling helpless with respect to your sexual health. Some helpful resources about STIs can be found online at cdc.gov/std or in the Student Health Education Centre (SHEC) on campus.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your diagnosis, or having trouble processing feelings of guilt, resentment or hopelessness, you should consider seeing a counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre to talk about your feelings; keeping everything bottled up will only cause problems in the long run.

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