Judgment-free disease

Illustration by Fahmida Azim.

Caitlin Stallings
Contributing Columnist

Sexually transmitted diseases have always been prevalent in American societies, especially among the youth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens and young adults ages 15-24 make up nearly half of the new sexually transmitted disease diagnoses each year — half of these diseases lasting a lifetime. Before making any judgments about a person who has an STD, first take into consideration how devastating and traumatic an occurrence this is for a human being, and most importantly the story behind this unfortunate nightmare.

Since young people are at a higher risk for STDs, college campuses are breeding grounds for a number of these diseases. According to the Stanford University Sexual Health Peer Resource Center, 1 in 4 college students have an STD. The most common STDs among college students include chlamydia, genital herpes and HPV, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Clearly it’s easy to blame these high statistics on the students for not practicing safe sex like they were always taught in family life classes, but sexual intercourse and oral sex are not the only ways in which STDs can be passed. Anyone, young or old, is potentially at risk of contracting an STD if they share needles while injecting intravenous drugs. On top of that, some STDs can be transmitted simply by skin contact, for instance, genital warts or herpes.

Although the CDC and other organizations provide education on STDs, the topic is still taboo. The topic of STDs is just not something a majority of people feel comfortable discussing usually for fear of being judged harshly or looked down on. Sex alone is a taboo topic. To look down on someone for the consequences of that is the same as looking down on someone for drinking alcohol. An alcoholic never meant to be an alcoholic, it was just a matter of circumstance.

A person with an STD is not defined by their STD; a person who spread STDs knowingly should be looked down on. The fear of being open about having an STD is partly due to the perspective that society holds. No one wants to be identified by their illness, especially not an STD but still they are and no one will change the their thinking on the subject until they are victims themselves.

The most inaccurate assumption anyone can possibly make about a person who has an STD is that he or she must have been “sleeping around” in order to obtain one. A wide range of affected individuals are just innocent victims to these diseases for a number of reasons. Some of these include, but are not limited to, their partner’s infidelity or dishonesty about their own health.

Cheating is also a major factor in the spread of STDs. You could have been the faithful one in the relationship and end up infected with herpes, for example. But why should you have to be the one feeling ashamed, embarrassed, tainted and worthless for the actions of your not-so-loyal lover when the statistics show that you do not stand alone? Believe it or not, these kinds of scenarios happen more often than society realizes. Generally most people who have an STD are not at all aware of it, since many of the symptoms can be so mild that they go unnoticed or show no physical signs at all. One of the most common STDs in the U.S. is Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which often does not show any visible symptoms, although it can cause genital warts and cervical cancer if it is not properly treated. Herpes is another example of an STD that is not always seen with the naked eye, but that still does not stop the virus from continuing to spread even without a visible breakout.

Nonetheless, STDs are most often spread through sexual activities. Using a condom every time greatly reduces the risk of STDs, as well as knowing your partner’s sexual past and getting tested regularly, regardless of the length of your relationship.


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