People should not be embarrassed about their sickness. Being open-minded to talk about what they are suffering from would make the patients more willing to seek treatments, become knowledgeable about what they are carrying, and hence possibly prevent further spread of the disease. We all know these but the nature of STD not only makes it difficult for patients, especially females, to comfortably talk about their disease, but also damages them psychologically and culturally. The main reason comes from the promiscuity stigma or even “judgements such as irresponsible, naive, or stupid” (Nack 488) that the disease brings to the patient, even though sexual intercourse is not the only way of transmitting the infections. The article, “Damaged Goods: Mixing Morality with Medicine” by Adina Nack, made me think more about the causes of psychological and social damages that STD can bring to an individual.
In the example of the article, the first thought that came to the infected 20-year-old female undergraduate’s mind after finding out about her possible contraction is that “How could this have happened to me? I’m not a slut” (Nack 488). This immediately shows how her attitude was in the past toward STD and STD patients, that only “sluts” get STD’s when people with few sexual experience can actually contract the infections too, even with ‘proper protection’ (condom). I think this phenomenon is quite similar to our attitude toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. People would talk freely about homosexuality with or without correct understanding about them until they find out that someone very close comes out as homosexual. The psychological hardships in both cases (realisation of STD or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people) are likely to be more intense if they had more negative opinions on STD patients or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. According to “symbolic interactionism,” “[i]dentities are meanings attributed to self, by others and by self” (Nack 491), so, when people get infected by STD’s, they may be psychologically suffering more from their own judgement on themselves.
However, the self-judgement and stigma all comes from the societal attitude that made each individual to possess such negative views. In 1980’s, women were viewed “not as victims of the disease but as risk factors to others,” and HIV infections in women were regarded as “simply the natural consequence of the way they choose to live, the ‘wages of sin'” (Nack 492). Today in the United States, we have a lot better understanding about STD’s and their ways of infecting new people, but incorrect and biased condemnation can break the patients’ mentality seriously, causing larger problems.
I once read a news article about a woman in China who had been sexually abused by many people, including her step-father from when she was fifteen years old. When she found out she got infected with HIV somewhere in her life, and found out that she can no longer pursue her dream of a stable life, she decided to take a revenge on the society, especially to men who she thought ruined her life, and started to have sex with more men, possibly infecting 279 more people.
In Korea, I once watched a TV documentary about a man in his 40’s who believed for several years that he had AIDS after comparing his symptoms to what he read on internet. Because of the harsh societal view on people with STD’s, he ran away from his family to not make his family suffer, and started to live in complete isolation. He refused to go to clinic to be tested for HIV, because he did not want to risk himself by letting people find out about his ‘AIDS’. When the documentary producers finally convinced him to get tested, the result showed that he was HIV negative.
Such examples show that people need to understand about the disease correctly and have more mature view on the patients who are the victims of the disease. In order for us to fight off the STD’s, accurate facts about STD should be communicated through media and education, which will hopefully make the patients feel less painful in their minds.
Damaged Goods: Mixing Morality with Medicine by Adina Nack