Hlike anyone ever called you dirty when you got sick or had the flu? And if you went to the doctor with a sore throat, but they diagnosed you with an allergy rather than, say, a sore throat or another infectious disease, would you declare yourself pure? The answer to both of these questions is, most likely, no. Words are important, and that’s why describing our health as “clean” – including sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is problematic.
“Clean” is a common way to describe someone’s condition around sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but reducing stigma and shame about STIs requires everyone the person must stop this practice — and it is important to understand why doing so is necessary. Using the word “clean” to describe a negative STI test implies that if someone tests positive, they are dirty – which can be extrapolated to mean bad, unworthy and countless other negative traits and states are associated. But the truth is, having a positive STI test doesn’t mean someone is a human.
Using the word “clean” to describe a negative STI test implies that if someone tests positive, they are dirty – this can be extrapolated to mean bad or unworthy worth.
Furthermore, if someone is afraid of being seen as “dirty”, they may not get tested (out of fear), fail to report a positive STI status (out of shame), and not have the necessary conversations. sexual health with new and current partners. (out of annoyance). For these reasons, removing the word “clean” is necessary for STI status — and considering how common STIs are, it’s a very serious public health issue.
According to the World Health Organization, more than a million STIs are acquired every day, and research has found that shame often associated with an STI diagnosis, largely revolves around other people’s perception of the condition. If the feeling of shame and fear is great enough, it can lead to someone not seeking treatment or alerting a partner, which can have life-threatening consequences. This is especially unfortunate, since so many STIs are completely treatable and curable.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. One strategy each person can adopt to help move the STI story away from one of shame is to commit to using language that is not judgmental or discriminatory.
How to talk about STI status without using the word “clean”
Of course, “clean” as it relates to health is not used exclusively to describe STIs. People also say things like “I have a clean health bill.” In this case, it implies that if someone has high cholesterol, they are, in a sense, dirty. Obviously, that’s not true. So, whether related to STI status or any other sign of health, we are all better served by forgoing the clean or dirty model.
Instead of using the word “clean,” switch to phrases like “tested negative” or “my testing board did not detect any STIs on my last screening.” That’s not only more realistic, but it also eliminates judgment and shame. You can also say, “I was tested for something most recently and everything came back negative,” instead of “last time I was tested, I had a clean bill of health.” “. The former is hyper-descriptive and objective, while the latter is ambiguous and causes language to linger in stigma.
Other methods to reduce stigma and shame about STIs
After adjusting our language, we can move on to making gender-appropriate sex education more common. (To start from one place, I have a sexual health workshop that looks at every single STI.) Instead of telling us what we did wrong if we got an STI, let’s normalize it. it by focusing on the methods of treatment and protection measure. It should be safe to announce, but if you have an STI, take steps to treat your condition and act responsibly towards new and existing partners. Sex has long had a stigma of shame attached to it; we don’t need to add to it by making someone think they are in the dirt or have done something wrong if they have an STI.
In addition to improving sex education, let’s also share our knowledge with others. If you believe “clean” is a harmful description when applied to sexual health, share the tip with people in your network; Let others know why using this word perpetuates shame and stigma. For example, if you match someone on a dating app with a “clean” profile, let them know why they were dumped or how they can update to make it less discriminatory.
We can begin to break the stigma by being mindful of our individual actions. One way we can break the stigma surrounding STIs is to change our language and help others realize that they should do the same.