Top 10 Bloggers Fighting STD Stigma
We selected these blogs because they are all platforms that are educating, inspiring and empowering a community of online readers with the information and tools that they need. If you would like to tell us about a blog that we missed, please feel free to nominate them by emailing [email protected]!
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are extremely common. In fact, the Center for Disease Control estimates that there are 20 million new infections every year in the United States alone, and the World Health Organization estimates that more than 1 million STIs are acquired every day worldwide.
Because of this commonality, STD prevention has moved to the forefront of public health efforts. One of the United States’ Healthy People 2020 goals is to “promote healthy sexual behaviors, strengthen community capacity, and increase access to quality services to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and their complications.” This is crucial, because STDs cost the U.S. healthcare system as much as $16 billion annually. The Healthy People 2020 program aims to improve prevention of these diseases by increasing education platforms dedicated to sexual health practices.
STDs affect everyone, whether it’s you or someone you know that has been diagnosed. As long as you are having sex, you are susceptible to STDs and STIs, regardless of age, background, race, or gender. Often, STDs do not present with symptoms, making their detection more difficult. In addition, some traditionally curable infections, like Gonorrhea, are becoming more difficult to treat as the diseases become more resistant to antibiotics. We have, however, made great strides for diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis C.
Despite their prevalence, the diagnosis of an STD or STI can be difficult to cope with. These diagnoses carry a huge stigma - some have even gone so far as to compare having an STD to wearing a modern day scarlet letter. Luckily, having access to community resources and information on your disease can help drastically reduce this feeling of stigma and help the diagnosed and their loved ones cope. The blogs we have chosen below have created online communities and platforms for those diagnosed with STDs to tell their stories, get resources and information on different diseases, learn about prevention and sexual health for the future, and ultimately normalize these conversations in order to reduce the stigma surrounding STDs and STIs.
1. Teen Source
Teen Source is a self-proclaimed “online hub for teen-friendly sexual and reproductive health information and resources.” Teen Source provides factual, trustworthy information about STDs, birth control, healthy relationships, and teen rights to accessing sensitive services in California. The site aims to create conversations about sexual health from a young age to help normalize these topics. The platform features blogs and videos written and created by teens, for teens, on sexual health and reproductive issues. The blog includes articles like “Would You Use A Phone App to Get Your Birth Control?”, “Are You Ready To Be Out?”, and “3 Tips to a Healthy Relationship.” Teen Source is particularly important because it is helping reduce the stigma of STDs and STIs for a young age group, so that they can take proper action to maintain their sexual health as they mature. Studies have shown that reducing this stigma early on can be instrumental in creating important, lifelong sexual health practices. Teen Source is run by Essential Access Health, a nonprofit working to create a more equitable reproductive health care system. (http://teensource.org/)
2. My Fabulous Disease
Run by Mark S. King, My Fabulous Disease is an advocacy platform for those who have HIV, those who are looking to prevent HIV and those looking to honor those who’ve passed because of HIV. Mark states plainly on the websites home page that he is “an HIV positive gay man in recovery from a drug addiction.” He hopes to reduce the stigma of HIV and prevent others from turning to drugs to cope with their diagnosis. The website features culture/entertainment reviews for HIV-related films and books, talks about policies surround HIV prevention, and provides resources for all issues that might affect someone suffering from HIV. Some of the issues that the blog’s articles address include talking to your friends and family about your disease, prevention and policy issues, meth and recovery, living life as a gay man, and much more. Mark has been an activist since his diagnosis in 1985 and continues to push for better policy and preventive action. He has written a memoir on his experience and currently lives in Maryland with his husband Michael, whom he states plainly is “a better person that [he].” (http://marksking.com/category/my-fabulous-disease/)
Beforeplay.org is an online platform dedicated to normalizing the conversation about sexual health in order to reduce unintended pregnancies and “promote good sexual and reproductive health.” The website breaks down differences in birth control options, differences in STDs, and discusses issues surrounding pregnancy and sexuality. They have FAQ pages for each of these topics that successfully answers just about every question you could possibly have on each issue. They also feature a “Get Talking” page for each issue, which provides tools on having these traditionally difficult conversations with loved ones. In addition to all of these resources, Beforeplay.org also has a blog, which has articles on all different facets of sexual health and reproductive rights. Beforeplay.org does an excellent job of furthering its mission to create conversations about these touchy subjects so that and reducing the stigma of STDs (and all other aspects of sexual health) in the process. (https://beforeplay.org/)
4. Ella Dawson
Ella Dawson is an activist whose mission is to reduce the stigma of HSV by informing people about her experience living with the disease. Having been diagnosed with genital HSV-I in May of 2013, Dawson began writing about what it was like for her to live, date and be sexually active with her “heavily stigmatized STI.” Though Dawson has retired from activism, her website remains an important resource for those dealing with an HSV diagnosis. She has written essays on media representation of the disease, how to deal with a new diagnosis, having sex for the first time post-diagnosis, and much more. She has also written up interviews with those closest to her about their experience dealing with her diagnosis, including her ex-boyfriend, her best friend and the guy she dated post-diagnosis. Dawson has a Ted Talk on this topic and has become a public figure for her activism work. (https://elladawson.com/)
5. Our Bodies, Ourselves
Our Bodies Ourselves is a Boston-based nonprofit organization that “develops and promotes evidence-based information on girls’ and women’s reproductive health and sexuality.” Well known for their book Our Bodies, Ourselves, a renowned resource for educating adolescents on sexual health, Our Bodies Ourselves has made it their mission to continue educating the public on these issues. Their website provides information on sexual health, healthy relationships and reproductive health. They feature articles on women’s experiences with abortion, STD stigmas and their ramifications, and personal reflections on feminism. By providing such expansive resources to such a broad audience, Our Bodies Ourselves is helping reduce the stigma that surrounds STDs, abortions, and all other sexual health issues. (https://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/)
6. I’m Still Josh
I’m Still Josh is an online blog run by activist Josh Robbins that seeks to provide resources to those newly diagnosed with HIV (and those that are working to accept the disease as a part of their life). Josh was diagnosed in 2012 and has made it his mission to create an online community of HIV+ people to support each other as they deal with this illness and its stigma. His blog features a timelined story of his experience of being diagnosed with HIV-1 and articles explaining the different things one might experience when they are diagnosed with HIV. He has an article on what it means to be HIV-U (undetectable), videos on his day-to-day experience with the disease, and a whole “toolkit” available for free download that includes a guide to bisexuality and HIV, a guide to PrEP and HIV prevention, and a guide to transgender issues surrounding HIV. (http://www.imstilljosh.com/)
7. The Stigma Project
The Stigma Project is a grassroots project that aims to help reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS. The blog features op-eds and infographics on HIV/AIDs and discusses the historical struggle to get public recognition of the disease. Much of the content on The Stigma Project encourages getting tested early and often to avoid carrying the disease without knowing about it. They point out that many HIV+ populations do not know that they are positive because of poor testing practices. The blog pushes for understanding HIV so that we might prevent the spread of it. They are also particularly focused on fighting the idea that HIV is a weapon and its carriers are dangerous. The Stigma Project wants you to know that HIV+ people are just like everyone else, and with proper care and education they pose no threat to the general public. (http://blog.thestigmaproject.org/)
8. Justin’s HIV Journal
Justin’s HIV Journal is a blog and public forum that is run by Justin B. Terry Smith, an HIV activist that’s been speaking out about HIV since his diagnosis in 1999. A bit of an icon, Justin has been featured on magazine covers and dedicated to the advancement of the HIV/AIDs movement. He is an Air Force 9/11 disabled vet who now lives in Maryland with his husband and their son. Justin’s blog features youtube videos and corresponding articles that discuss the issues that HIV+ people may face. He openly speaks of his experience with the skin condition Rosacea and how he’s treated it, how social media has enabled activism for HIV patients, how to maintain your oral health with HIV, and how we can reduce the stigma of all STDs, not just HIV. He has received numerous accolades for his activism work and continues to educate people to this day. (http://justinshivjournal.blogspot.com/)
9. Go Ask Alice!
Go Ask Alice! is an online question and answer platform run by a group of health professionals at Columbia University. The organization is highly regarded as a go-to source of online information for all-things health and has received numerous accolades for their work. Though the platform is technically for all health issues, Go Ask Alice! dedicates much of its platform to discussing sexual health topics. In 2017, they answered roughly 400 questions that ranged from the breakdown of different herpes strains and oral sex to advice to those who have trouble making commitments in their relationships.The site also features quizzes so that readers can test their knowledge on various health issues and polls to collect data so that they can provide the best information possible to help their readers. (http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/)
10. Earth, Wind and Herpes
Earth, Wind and Herpes is an open forum for those with HSV-1 or HSV-2 to discuss their experience, share stories, and seek advice from one another. The site is run by “a 20-something city girl who was diagnosed with HSV2 (aka genital herpes) in 2010 but who refuses to give up on the idea of love (and really good sex) despite it.” The site runner says that she is on a “journey of self-acceptance, self-love and self-discovery” and invites those with HSV to join her on this journey. Earth, Wind and Herpes also features blog posts on the different scenarios someone with herpes might encounter and how they might deal with them. They have blogs on how to tell a sexual partner about your disease, how to cope when the diagnosis feels like too much to bare, what outbreaks might look like, etc. The website is helping its readers and contributors normalize the feeling of having HSV by providing concrete resources and encouraging ideas of self-love and acceptance. http://earthwindandherpes.tumblr.com/