A matter of pride

Steven here…

A childhood friend of mine posted this on Facebook after her visit to the doctor:

“Syphilis-NEGATIVE, HIV-1&2-NEGATIVE, Chlamydia-NEGATIVE, HPV- Negative, Herpes-NEGATIVE, GC (Gonorrhea)-NEGATIVE, Trichomonias- NEGATIVE, ALL DRUG TEST NEGATIVE… At 32 I have Never had a STD and IM proud of it. These type of papers are like a TREASURE, DO YOU HAVE YOURS?’”

I’m very glad that she gets tested. And I’m thrilled that she doesn’t see that as something to hide. The part that bugs me is this bit:

“I have Never had a STD and IM proud of it.”

I haven’t had an STD either, but it’s not a matter of shame or pride. Anymore than having had the flu would be. It’s good to get tested and stay healthy, but I worry that by attaching pride to being free of STIs/STDs, we attach a stigma to the people who have the diseases. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad when people are disease-free. I just don’t see a stigma as useful or good as the stigma hinders people from openly discussing it and seeking treatment.

I suppose in the sense that responsible action can mitigate your chances of becoming infected, taking action to protect yourself and others is something to have pride in. But I don’t think we do society any favors when we create a paradigm where they feel shame in seeking treatment for something. And if you have an STI, you have to tell anyone that you would have sex with. When someone is made to feel like they’ve done something horribly wrong, and are not just host to a pathogen, they are more likely to hide their infection from those who need to know about it the most.

While I can’t say that this is the motivation for my friend’s post, usually when I see this sentiment expressed it is heavily tied to slut-shaming. People use STIs as an insult to hurl at someone they feel is sleeping around more than is seemly in polite society. But even if being a slut was an inherently bad thing, it isn’t just slutty people who get infections. Often times it can be monogamous people who have been cheated on, or have a partner infected from a previous relationship without realizing it.

I’m married and monogamous now, but before that I was always careful and got tested regularly. A big part of the reason I hadn’t contracted anything though is luck. And I don’t see the point of having an air of superiority because I’ve been luckier than someone else.

Do you think a person’s ability to evade contact with microscopic organisms is a reflection of their character?

I write a lot of jokes. Some of them are in this book.
I also host the podcast of the Skepchick events team, Some Assembly Required, and cohost the WWJTD Podcast.
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