I have been leading a support group for individuals with HSV-1, HSV-2, and HPV (or more commonly known as oral herpes, genital herpes, and genital warts). Needless to say, being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, one for which there is no cure, can be a life-changing experience. There is a huge stigma associated with STIs, and the diagnosis can impact a person’s relationships and self-esteem.
So what should we make of the news that more than one quarter of young girls have a sexually transmitted infection?
Does it have anything to do with the fact that sex education in our schools cannot address the proper use of condoms? (even though condoms do not fully protect against STIs… but it’s at least some protection..)
How many parents discuss STIs with their kids? Do parents even know the basic facts about STIs? Do they know that you can get herpes without having intercourse? Do they know that having herpes makes you more susceptible to HIV infection? Do they discuss with their kids the need for STI screening if they are sexually active? Do they tell their kids that they have to ask specifically for a herpes test because it is NOT part of the normal screening? … I highly doubt 1 in 100 parents has that kind of discussion with their kid.
Do YOU know that by the time you are 50, fifty percent of the population will have herpes? When you are 75, seventy-five percent of people will have herpes. That is a staggering statistic.
Why is there such a stigma against something that the majority of people will experience?
Because STIs are SEXUALLY transmitted infections – and that makes people uncomfortable.