Talking about: STIs, COVID, and #HotVaxSummer

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A while back, I wrote an article about STIs (sexually transmitted infected infections). In the article, I talked about how to ensure that you don’t get an infection. This included testing, protection with barrier methods, and speaking with your partner.

Talking is often the most difficult of all the above. Here are some detailed strategies to help you tackle this problem.

stid covid hotvaxsummer

Although there are many reasons that talking can feel difficult, both scientific research and in-office experience show that the root problem is the stigma attached sexuality, especially STIs. Stigma is a stigma that can cause shame and disgrace in a person.

The potential for shame and disgrace can make it difficult to talk about the topic. And yet, perversely, not addressing the topic increases your risk of having the outcome you fear – being affected by an infection. What can you do?

This section will help you to look at recent events and understand some of the strategies that can be used to manage this COVID experience. Perhaps you remember, or maybe you don’t, but let me remind you, how terrified we were of COVID back in spring 2020. While some fear was related to death, it was not all. It was also a fear that COVID would be discovered.

Some people were afraid they would be considered dirty or suspect for having COVID. This is because COVID was considered an infection. 

We didn’t have to fear COVID even before the vaccine was available. It was just another virus, even though it is highly contagious. We recognized that certain precautions could help. These included adequate ventilation, and, very relevant to our discussion: using barrier protection/facemasks.

We also learned that, despite the risks and all that it entails, human interaction was necessary in order to make life worth living. We learned to talk about who we were and how we protected ourself. If we were infected, we informed others so that they could be tested and take preventative measures to avoid infecting others.

These discussions reduced the stigma surrounding COVID in an enviable way. The more we had them, the less negative emotion it elicited. This led to a decrease in stigma and made it easier for us to have the discussion.  This allowed us to continue fundamental human behavior while being safer. Sound like everything else? 

If you thought – “Sex! It sounds like sexual behavior and dealing with STI’s!” you would be correct. There is a greater number of people who need and want sexual interaction. This can increase the risk of getting ill. So let’s consider how we could use the lessons from COVID.

Just like with COVID, to talk about STI’s we need to decrease the stigma or fear surrounding the conversation. You are the first to do this. It is possible to de-charge a conversation if you arrive at it calmer or with the intention to finish it.

This sounds difficult or frightening to you? There are 2 options. The first is to get a new pair of eyes.This can be done with a close friend, before going to a discussion with a partner. Second, keep reading…

STIs, while they may seem frightening because they are connected to sex and can be transmitted through sexual interaction, are actually any infection that you can transmit through human interaction. Sexual interaction is simply an elaborate version other human interactions which all start with physically getting together. STI aren’t just infections transmitted via genital contact. They also include infections that can be transmitted through human to person contact. These include common colds and COVID.

STIs may still seem frightening because of the possible consequences. But many infections can be treated. It is easier to diagnose them earlier and less damage may occur. There are treatment options available for those infections that can’t be eliminated, like HIV. These treatments can reduce the impact and even prevent some of the most severe outcomes.

However, it is easier to get a better outcome if you are able to find out sooner. It is important to know the risks and how to avoid them.

This is how you see it: If you’ve ever had conversations about the possibility or transmission of any illness, including recent COVID conversations, you can now recognize that you’re already familiar with having conversations on STIs.

So, get out there with your new found – but really already familiar and well-practiced- skills and use them to ensure your health now for the post-vaccination, long-awaited, #HotVaxSummer of fun and later, forevermore. 

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