“U may have been exposed to chlamydia and may need a sexual health check. Check out this website for more information.” What the…?
You probably wonder what the hell the message is about – you use condoms when you fuck, you get your regular sexual health checks every three to six months with your gay–friendly GP, and you think you know what you need to about sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Regardless, you still get tested, and sure enough, the test comes back positive for chlamydia.
The fact is, STIs are part of life. Luckily, many of the common STIs like chlamydia and syphilis are treatable, which is what makes testing so important – but if they’re so common, why is it so hard to talk about them? Why is there so much stigma around telling someone you had chlamydia and so might they?
One reason they’re so common has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with the stigma and resulting silence. We really need to move beyond this. When over 18,000 people in Victoria were diagnosed with chlamydia last year, what’s to be ashamed of – you’re not the only one.
Many of us chat to our friends about our weekend trade, and take pride in that; we should also feel comfortable keeping the dialogue open about sexual health then too. Breaking the silence will only make it easier in the long run. The more comfortable we feel talking to guys honestly about their possible exposure to STIs, they more likely they’ll get tested. Testing can then lead to treatment of curable STIs, which will help reduce the pool of infection in the community. Good news for everyone, right?
So, let’s get back to that email you got. Nobody’s pretending that it isn’t daunting to think about talking to your recent sex partners and telling them if you’ve been diagnosed with an STI. If you’ve been diagnosed with an STI, what your playmates don’t know could affect you again. Or affect a friend or fuckbuddy.
If the idea of having those discussions with your sex partners just seems way too difficult, there’s an easy option to let recent sexual partners know that they may have been exposed to an STI. The Drama Downunder campaign provides a simple feature on their website which allows you to send an anonymous eCard or SMS to individuals to let them know they may need to get a sexual health check. If you want, you can even add your name to the message so it doesn’t come completely out of the blue.
So if you do happen to get an email like the one above that catches you off guard, better to be safe than sorry. Get tested and treated. No Drama!
By JASON ASSELIN, Victorian AIDS Council.