I remember when Usher came out with the Confessions album. I was a freshman in high school and pretty naive about sexuality. Classmates were gossiping about the song “Burn” being more than a confession of cheating, but of giving a lover a STD. I thought, NO WAY!
Thirteen years later, maybe my classmates were right after-all. Usher’s been in the news recently for a case brought against them alleging that he failed to disclose he had herpes to sexual partners. According to an article from The Guardian he was formally diagnosed in 2009-2010 after a partner brought similar accusations. Usher paid over a million dollars to keep that case quiet.
If Usher knew that he had herpes and has consciously decided not to disclose this to partners, that is a huge failure on his part. His failure is also an opportunity for a larger discussion on a few topics: protection, testing, and disclosing.
The best way to avoid getting an STD is to not have sex (haha). Of course everyone is having sex, so what’s the next step? PROTECTION! I get it, maybe it ‘feels better’ without a condom or it’s awkward in the heat of the moment to bring it up, but isn’t going to your doctor for an STD more embarrassing? Isn’t disclosing to every future partner you have more embarrassing?
Even if you’re using protection and being careful you still need to get tested if you’re sleeping with multiple partners and they should too. This isn’t something your doctor is going to bring up at your annual check-up, but it’s something that you should request. If you don’t have health insurance utilize the services Planned Parenthood offers for protection and prevention. Consider making a donation and following legislation threatening to remove this critical resource.
So, you’ve been diagnosed with an STD, now what? I get it, it’s scary. Your whole life has changed in a phone call. You’re now asked to recall past partners and inform new partners while it sinks in. It’s okay to spend some time wallowing in self pity, but then it’s time for you to be concerned about others. Remember how you felt when you found out and draw strength from there to overcome the embarrassment.
It’s also important to know that you aren’t alone. If numbers help check out the Center for Disease Control. There were 1.5 million NEW cases in 2015 alone. A rough estimate is that there are 110 million Americans living with an STD right now.
Furthermore, if disclosing to new partners is too terrifying to handle there are sites and apps out there for those who have tested positive like Hift and STD Friends. (I linked the first two I found so this is not an exhaustive list. There are a ton out there!)
The bottom line is that you are responsible for your sexual health. You are responsible for knowing your status and for disclosing it to your partners. Yes it’s intimidating, but you’ve got this!