Why there’s no shame in having an STD and talking about it

There’s a particularly embarrassing situation that arises when you get an STD but a doctor has revealed there’s a new solution to this problem.

When it comes to sexual health, I thought I knew all there was to know. I went to a very Christian high school and was fiercely told that sex was to be saved for marriage.

Then I went to university in a country town, as a newly single girl, and quickly learnt the importance of a condom.

Each week it felt like I was escorting a friend to the local GP and holding their hand as some form of STD diagnosis was given to them.

Nothing scares you into insisting on a condom quite like a pamphlet being passed around dorm rooms informing you that the town has noticed a recent surge in chlamydia!

So, in all honesty, it had been quite a few years since I had given my own sexual health much thought.

Then about a month or so ago, I binge watched a brilliant series on Stan called It’s A Sin that centres on a group of friends whose lives are changed irrevocably by the HIV/Aids epidemic in the ’80s.

Now listen, I have been known for my hypochondriac ways. A simple leg cramp after my Covid vaccine had me convinced I had a blood clot, and before you know it, I’m googling coffins. So watching It’s A Sin, having not had an STD test in quite a while sent my mind down an absolute spiral.

The next morning I jumped out of bed, strapped on my face mask and took myself off to my closest GP for a full once over. He took a blood sample, made me pee in a cup, and said make an appointment in two days time for the results.

“Two days? But I want to know now!” I exclaimed. He rolled his eyes and sent me on my merry way.

As I mentioned before, I’m quite the drama queen when it comes to my health, so by the time 48 hours had passed, I was back in the doctors waiting room hyperventilating into my mask. When the doctor called me into his office I was convinced I had caught a number of horrid things.

Now question for the room: why do doctors take so long to look up results? Can’t they just have them ready to go by the time you walk into the room. Every tick of the clock felt like a million years. By the time he had read out every single STD known to mankind and said “negative to all” I was hit with a wave of relief.

The poor man looked at me like I was some kind of loon. “Why did you think you had caught something? You don’t even have any symptoms!” he exclaimed.

Well, dear doc, because I had gone deep into a google hole and that never ends well now, does it!

I walked out of that room feeling like the weight of the world had just been lifted off my shoulders. So when former Bachelor contestant Juliette Herrera mentioned in last week’s podcast that possible Bachelor contestants were screened for STDs and booted if they had one, well … it kinda fired me up! Because for one hot second when I thought I had one, my biggest worry was feeling kinda dirty.

It made me question how many other people were made to feel like this? And why shouldn’t someone who has caught an STD be allowed to try their chance at love (or at least a few thousand new Instagram followers).

So I decided it was time we got rid of the stigma around STDs, especially considering just how prevalent they are among adults.

Over the next three weeks my Kinda Sorta Dating podcast will dive deep into the world of STDs. This week I chat to Dr Ginni Mansberg who tests for them on an almost daily basis, and like I said earlier, I thought I knew everything there was to know about STDs but, oh boy, was I wrong.

For example, did you know there is now an anonymous text site people can use if they’ve tested positive and are too embarrassed to tell their sexual partners. Yup!

Dr Ginni also explains what STD symptoms you should never ignore, and just how many people have caught some form of STD. (Spoiler: basically everyone – in fact you could have one right now and have no idea!)

She also explained that STDs don’t discriminate. Yep, that banker has just as much chance of having an STD as that uni student. Fascinating stuff.

Next week I am chatting to a popular influencer who has been diagnosed with a very common STD, and the following week I’ll be finding out about a very popular dating site designed specifically for people who have tested positive for herpes.

Let’s break the stigma and get with the times people! Lord knows, my hyperventilating, manic-googling self can’t take the stress no more. Oh yeah, be a darl and wear a condom.

Jana Hocking is a podcaster and collector of kind-of-boyfriends | @jana_hocking

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