Herpes? How hilarious!
(If you hadn’t sensed it, that is indeed sarcasm in the title)
Last week we had a Sexual Health lecture at University, I was looking forward to this because, not only do I find it genuinely interesting, I know it is an issue that is going to crop up in my nursing career for the rest of my life… and, honestly, I naively assumed that in a room full of soon-to-be nurses the discussion would be at least marginally more mature than previous ones… I was wrong.
Honestly, when I left that lecture theatre I was ashamed of my cohort. The calls of “ugh”, “that’s disgusting” and “gross” made me worried, because these people will be nurses in one year, and they can’t see a picture of (pretty tame) herpes without expressing how disgusting they think it is, or laughing. What will they do with their patients?
One thing I feel the need to say, because apparently people do not know: SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES AND INFECTIONS ARE EASY TO CATCH.
People seem to think each person who contracts these diseases and infections needs to have filled some quota of promiscuity, or types of sexual act, or that people who have ever caught an STI or STD must be “dirty” or that they frequently have unprotected sex.
There isn’t a ‘safe’ number of people to have slept with, and below that elusive number you could not possibly get an STI or STD, there isn’t some rule about how many times you have to have had unprotected sex.
IT IS BAD LUCK.
When people get an STI or STD it does not tell you anything about their lifestyle, or who they are — but people seem to thing they do, and believe they have a right to judge that person.
Here’s another secret: You can get an STI or STD at any age, provided you are sexually active (and that, tragically, does not only include those who choose to be sexually active). Teenaged, middle-aged, elderly, and everything inbetween. It does not stop being relevant to that person just because you don’t believe they are having sex, do not make assumptions.
Why is having Herpes, or HIV or Gonorrhea seen as so much worse by these student nurses than a person with a pressure ulcer, or tonsillitis, or an infected wound? Is it because they see it as that person’s fault?
PEOPLE DO NOT CHOOSE TO HAVE A SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASE OR INFECTION. It is your responsibility to treat the person, just as any other illness, not to judge it or place blame.
How is it that a room full of student nurses will have these reactions to a picture of a few genital warts, but treat a really nasty pressure ulcer without a hitch? Surely nobody genuinely thinks the warts are worse to look at? So what is it? STIGMA.
The fact is, the majority of people in that lecture theatre will be having or have had sex in the past, which makes them just as capable of having contracted these diseases as any other person. Or has every single one of those people used condoms/dental dams every time they have had sex, oral sex, or during any other sexual acts? Have they made every sexual partner get fully tested prior to sex, and asked them if they have ever had any of the viral infections? NO THEY HAVEN’T.
My bet is that some of the 400 students in that lecture theatre had some of the STIs or STD we talked about, and left that lecture feeling really really terrible about themselves… and that isn’t fair.
I don’t know why, after all of this time, sexually transmitted diseases and infections are still treated with such contempt, without respect, and with judgement. They are not more disgusting than other infections we, as nurses and student nurses, treat, and they are not less common, and they are not a direct reflection of any person’s lifestyle.
Why are they treated any differently? Why are they laughed at, why is there blame?
THE STIGMA AND ATTITUDE TOWARDS SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES AND INFECTIONS NEEDS TO CHANGE. That way, people would have the confidence to come forward and ask for treatment before it is too late, and the awareness and education can increase to reduce the problem.
Fingers crossed, in one year, those who laughed will have grown up a bit and will be capable of approaching these issues without such reactions.
fuck yeah. judgment and shaming are soooo last season and that shit should DEFINITELY not be coming from medical professionals whose job it is to “help us.” glad at least some people know whats up.
Fun fact: There are some you can get without being sexually active, such as through blood or skin contact. People who use the stigma of sex to carry over to these things are ridiculous. Sex should not be stigmatized in itself, but please don’t even assume that someone got something from having sex if it means you’re going to stigmatize them.
i think i deleted the last time i posted this because it seems to not exist anymore?? but reblogging, also for varyalanis’s important comment!