Why more people should be talking about STIs
You've been told you've got an STI. You've let your past partners know and you've finished your course of antibiotics to clear it up. Now you're ready to forget that it ever happened, right?
The idea of telling strangers - and sometimes even your friends - that you've caught an STI is most people's worst nightmare. But it seems that there are more and more people out there doing just that to help get rid of the stigma associated with STIs, and to encourage people take more responsibility for their sexual health.
Jenelle Marie Davies was diagnosed with herpes 15 years ago. Since then, Jenelle has auditioned for American Idol, gone skydiving, ran a 25k, started her own business, completed two degrees and been married. Basically, she's not let an STI get in the way of her doing anything she wants.
In April 2012 Jenelle began The STD Project as a way for her to share her story, and for other people who'd been diagnosed with an STI to share theirs too. As well as providing a sense of community, the STD Project has also become a valuable resource for anyone wanting information on STIs. From factsheets on different STIs to how and when you should tell your partner if you've got one, it's all there.
More recently Women's Health published an open letter from Ella Dawson, who found out that she'd got herpes just before her 21st birthday. In the letter, Ella says she always used a condom, thinking that would be enough, and thought of herself as 'not the sort of person STDs happened to'. However like many other STDs, herpes isn't picky when it comes to who it'll infect and condoms don't always stop it either.
What surprised Ella even more after reading up about the STD was that around 1 in 6 people have it. So then why did she feel like it was just her - surely there was someone else within her circle of friends? Even if she didn't find anyone else with herpes, Ella was determined to take control and began to tell more and more people about her STI, even if they were someone she'd just met.
Why is it important for Jenelle, Ella and others like them to put their stories out there?
Jenelle from the STD Project shares her story because talking about STIs is the 'first step toward eradicating the stigma, promoting education and awareness and encouraging acceptance'. On top of all that, Jenelle also believes 'communication is necessary for responsible sexual health'.
She's probably right too if you think about it. If less people are worried about what others might think of them, the more likely they are to discuss STIs and the like with their partners and their friends. This way talking about sexual health isn't seen as a big deal anymore, and taking care of yours and others' sexual health becomes as easy to talk about as going to the doctors for a check-up or requesting a free STI test online.
Ella tells her story because she feels that talking about herpes and how she decided to deal with it 'helps someone newly diagnosed feel less alone'. As Ella found out when she was first diagnosed, there are plenty of people out there dealing with the same thing, but maybe doing so on their own because of the stigma attached to it.
Talking about your sexual health shouldn't be a big deal and you should feel comfortable doing so with the people that matter. As Ella and Jenelle prove, you can even tell complete strangers and in most cases get a positive reaction.