I have Chlamydia. It has taken a while to get used to it – the fact that is, not the disease. In fact, the disease has the been the easiest part of my diagnosis. I’m positive the part where I caught the disease wasn’t too bad either.
There are no symptoms and the consequences of it’s invisible presence aren’t that detrimental to my health; even the nurse who treated me said it was unlikely for me to go infertile. Nevertheless, it does take two to tango. I would be a pretty heartless bastard not to care about my girlfriend – who stands a much, much higher chance of becoming infertile due to our newfound bond.
So why am I so blasé? Having an STI implies a wanton Russell-Brand-On-Viagra-And-Speed attitude to sex, doesn’t it? I’m not the sort of boy you’d introduce to your grandmother over tea and HobNobs, surely? In my defence, my bed post is not covered in notches. I have only ever slept with one girl, who is my long term girlfriend. I know before our relationship began she had slept with other guys. Not too many mind. Nevertheless, we haven’t been as safe as we could have been. We hadn’t even thought about STIs before Nouse asked me to get tested. It was too embarrassing. Even on the day of my test, we could only joke about how funny it would be if the results were positive. It seems the joke was on us.
Mention STIs to class room of students and most will giggle, some will become embarrassed and a few will ask if it’s a CSI spin off. We find STIs embarrassing so we don’t talk about them; we don’t talk about STIs so we find them embarrassing. Our thinking is leading us into an absurd vicious cycle. There’s no problem putting ‘Zack and Miri Make A Porno’ on a bus, but to say your going to a GUM clinic causes embarrassment? The more open we are about the being tested, the more controllable the problem becomes. Talking about it has convinced everyone on my floor to get tested. Statistically one other person on my floor has an STI. If there is something, it can be dealt with. If there is nothing there, at least the person will know. The test is literally as easy as peeing in a pot (if you go for the swab it’s barely a pin brick’s worth of pain) and most STIs are easily treatable. STIs aren’t anything to be proud of, but they are nothing to be ashamed of in themselves.
Discussion about STIs needs to adopt a strange tone: serious enough to have urgency, but not so serious to be alarmist; jovial enough to ease embarrassment but not so jovial we become flippant. Why should talking about Chlamydia be the worst part of the disease?