March 19th, 2021
Ideally, sexually active individuals should get an STI test done at least once every year. And those who are sexually involved with multiple partners should get tested more often; at least once every 6 months. Unfortunately, many people don’t get tested. A part of the reason is the still-prevalent stigma attached to STIs. Those who get tested, let alone have sexually transmitted infections, go through social scrutiny and judgments by friends, neighbors, and even family members.
It’s important that people get over this stigma and take proper measures, including regular testing, to keep themselves safe from STIs. And if one is indeed positive, adequate steps should be taken to effectively control the infection without letting the condition affect other aspects of life as a result of stigma.
So, if it has been long since you last got tested, or you have reasons to believe that something is wrong (maybe you’re noticing symptoms), visit an STD testing center and get tested. Google something like “HIV test center near me”, do some research, and find a good clinic that’s known to offer quality care.
If the test is negative, fair and good. Continue practicing safe sex. If it’s positive, understand that one can live a normal life with STIs like HIV. The doctor will outline a course of treatment for you. Stick to that plan and get the virus under control.
At the same time, to combat the stigma and judgments, have friends or family members who understand you by your side. Seek their emotional support. Talk to them about your struggles and the challenges you’re experiencing.
If the ongoing events as a result of your diagnosis are taxing you emotionally, seek help from a counselor. Following the positive diagnosis of any major conditions, people find it difficult to cope emotionally. The social interactions around them, which include judgment and hushed shaming, further add to the woes. Getting help from a mental health professional is a game-changer. It can help you learn to cope with your existing condition and effectively combat the stigma in a more positive and constructive way.
In the end, it’s important to understand that being STI positive doesn’t necessarily have to change anything for you. With proper treatment, you can fix or manage the infection better. Hence, what others are saying or thinking isn’t your concern; how you feel is! Get the right support from people you love, focus on your health, and strive to live a healthier life. As obvious as this may sound, this is the exact way to deal with (and beat) the stigma of STI.
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