Having an STD could be scary. Do you know what’s even scarier? The stigma that comes together with it.
Actually, I don’t. But that which was your first thought? Did your opinion of me change? I ask, as this is a very real situation that a great many have to face on a regular basis. Let’s talk about stigma.
Let me get started with a quick story that happened in my opinion. About thirty years ago I was doing its job a crisis counselor to the HIV/AIDS communities. And while lots of my clients had multiple health concerns and co-occurring disorders, it appeared like so many people desired to know what that it was like dealing with someone with AIDS? While it is true that I entered the AIDS era at a time late 80’s early 90’s when we remained learning about the modes of transmission and pathology, there were a stigma that come with it that scared, upset and downright pissed some individuals off. I can recall at one AIDS march in Washington DC, there was clearly a church group there screaming essentially the most vile what to us once we peaceful marched. I think it absolutely was then that I realized the best way powerful the stigma was.
But some day, my pal asked after we could grab lunch together. Being always up to get a meal, I accepted their invitation. I could tell something was weighing heavy on the mind. After we got our table i was told that they had something that they can really was required to tell me. I was bracing for your worse. It was during that time they disclosed that they’d Herpes. Without hesitation my response was… “And”? They said “That’s it.” That they just needed me to understand. I exhaled feeling relived. I wasn’t sure where we were holding coming from? They explained that they been carrying for quite a while now, and we were holding afraid of being judged. All I could think and say was “You know I have been an HIV/AIDS counselor for any decade. What makes you think that I would judge you”?
The thing that surprised me by far the most, is exactly how small they believed. The fact that individuals that I was serving was at the time considered to be the outcast just like the addictions population, shocked me they thought Herpes would cause judgement in this little side. It did not. It did however open my eyes on the stigma and judgement people that share these diseases feel using a day to day basis.
We can be a culture of blame, pointing the finger and shame. We don’t take a look at someone with cancer and cast judgement. Nor should we when someone has Epilepsy. But when you are considering addictions, STD’s as well as obesity, it would appear that opinions change. It is just like these people tend not to deserve compassion.
A couple of years back I was a part of a group venture that has been to provide Methadone to addicts of their environment. It was a mobile Methadone center. I was being interviewed by among the local papers and I was asked being workers chaplain, “What was my intend to convert these folks?” My first thought was “These people?”. I simply bit my tongue and said “I’m not here to convert them. I am here to enjoy them.” I am not sure why the world thinks the need to convert, shame or judge folks who are looking for help.
I think the detract from my experiences is always that people are disabled. Some by accident, and since some would say by choice. Bad the unexpected happens. And at times, horrific the unexpected happens. Stigma and judgment play no part in healing or changing behaviors for that good. When I think back when my good friend was scared to let me know about Herpes, despite being aware what I did for the living, managed to make it real in my opinion. Being sick is scary. Being sick and being judged, is downright terrifying.