Problems of Chronic Illnesses to Self and Identity
Talks with S
Sexually Transmitted Diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, HPV, Genital Herpes and the like, are infections that once contracted can never be fully cured. Contracting such a disease can be a testament of involvement in a sexual activity, promiscuity, irresponsibility, or culpability, and its consequences have been tagged as “life altering”. Having “safe sex” is attributed as always “using a condom” when engaging in sexual intercourse, however, this may not always safeguard one from contracting an STD. Furthermore, STD’s present a threat to an individual’s “sexual self”. Nack in Damaged Goods, writes about, “transformation of their [infected individuals] “sexual-selves”- how they see themselves as sexual beings- and how they understood and made choices about sexual health issues” after contracting such an infection (498).
Wearing a condom does not 100% protect us from infections such as HIV/ AIDS, however, wearing protection can adversely reduce the risk of contracting this virus. Nevertheless, one may contract another STD even after using a contraceptive. Thus the question that comes to my mind is the possibility of contracting an STD under circumstances beyond ones control. What if one has done “everything right” or in other words, has taken all the necessary precautions (wearing a condom, asking their partner about their “sexual script” etc.) before involvement in a sexual activity, and despite that has contracted an STD? Many of us may think: “Can this actually happen?” The answer to which is yes, it can. One such infection is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is unfortunately not always visible on an individual, thereby limiting our capabilities to avoid its contraction from a sex partner, and making it one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the U.S (Nack 487). Often individuals think that since they always wear a condom during sexual intercourse, there are never at risk of contracting an STD. While contraception can safeguard us from numerous STD’s, their potential is not limitless, and we are still susceptible to a number of STD’s.
An individual, who has contracted an STD, has to undergo severe ramifications. Nack in Damaged Goods, creates a “6-stage model” that attempts to include the different stages an individual may undergo before and after contracting a STD. This can be seen as: “self invincibility, self anxiety, immoral patient, damaged goods, sexual healing and reintegration” (498 & 499). These infected individuals may undergo an “identity dilemma” after contracting an STD. The virus enters our body and brings with it physical risk and discomfort, psychological repercussions and societal stigma. It changes or alters, an individuals “sexual-self”- a private self-shaped by emotions, cognitions, and memories of sexual experience (Nack 491).
Therefore, steps need to be taken to minimize the negative consequences of those already infected with the virus, as well as those who are at “high-risk” usually identified as : gay men, haitian immigrants, intravenous drug users and their sex partners and babies (Levine 624). Levine in Community, talks about successful AIDS prevention to include, “the recognition of the urgency of the problem of HIV and the exigencies, both personal and structural, of the people it is targeting; and respecting their social norms, identities, values and desires, expressed in the relationships between individuals and within communities” (621). He further adds,
“In AIDS prevention, the challenge is to find people where they affiliate and speak to their sense of belonging for the purpose of instilling and reinforcing safe-sex values and habits” (620).
There is no luck in the process of finding a cure for HIV/ AIDS. This is mainly because the HIV virus doesn’t kill its host, but in fact reduces ones immunity to such lows that the host contracts every virus or infection out there. He or she ultimately dies due to one of the deadly viruses he or she may have contracted. Furthermore, no accurate screening test is available for making sure that one does in fact have the HPV (Nack 487). Although an HPV vaccine does exist in the market today, it’s ultimate impact remains to be witnessed. In regards to HSV (herpes),“Medical researches are not sure whether a safe and effective one [vaccine] will be developed” (Nack 490).
Every year billions and billions of dollars are spent on conducting research, however, no cure has been found yet. The average sexually active human can only continue to take necessary precautions before involvement in sexual intercourse, and do all in his or her power to look after his or her “sexual health”. The rest has to be pinned down on mere hope that researchers will ultimately find a cure for such “life altering”, and sometimes even fatal viruses.
Levine, Judith. “Community: Risk, Identity, and Love in the Ages of AIDS”
Nack, Adina. “Damaged Goods: Mixing Morality with Medicine”