Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Fear keeps many from revealing STI diagnosis

A comprehensive review of research reveals the complex nature of disclosing a sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnosis to a partner before engaging in sexual activity.

The peer-reviewed results, published in The Journal of Sex Research, shed light on the various feelings and emotions people experience when faced with the prospect of a disclosure, with only around half or less feeling able to disclosing your diagnosis to a partner before sexual commitment. .

The University of Tennessee team of experts emphasizes the need for comprehensive sexuality education throughout the lifespan, from youth to late adulthood, to slow the spread of STIs, excluding HIV. “Many people lack comprehensive and sufficient sexual education,” the authors state in the article. “Instead of teaching them how to properly use prophylaxis, identify its limitations, and understand the extent and transmissibility of STIs, young people are only encouraged to be abstinent.”

The complexity of disclosure

The review highlights the vulnerability of people diagnosed with STIs and the difficult decisions they face, which can have damaging consequences for their identity and relationships. The authors note that “disclosure is an interpersonal process that involves not only the individual facing the decision to disclose, but also the intended recipient.”

The findings underscore the need for comprehensive, ongoing sexuality education across the lifespan and an increase in the number of U.S. states offering comprehensive sexuality education. With around one in five people in the US suffering from an STI at any given time and more than 26 million incidents reported to health services, rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have been at record levels for several years and continue to increase.

Reasons for non-disclosure and strategies used

Although public health agencies, including those in the US, recommend disclosing information about an active STI, the review shows that fear can prevent many people from disclosing their diagnosis. Other reasons for non-disclosure include the belief that using condoms is sufficient protection, lack of obligation in situations such as one-night stands, and fear of breaking up with them. Some people even described “passing” as not infected to avoid having to tell them.

On the other hand, people who disclosed to their partner did so out of love, feelings of moral obligation, or relationship-related reasons such as higher levels of commitment, quality of the relationship, length of time together, and feelings of closeness. Disclosers used various ways to disclose their STI status, while non-disclosers employed strategies to pass as uninfected, withdraw from relationships, and use STI outbreaks to schedule sexual activity.

The review also reveals that the experiences of people receiving information about STIs are not well represented in such studies. “One of the key factors that determines whether or not an individual will disclose is the intended recipient. “How the recipient will react and respond and the relationship with the recipient can be critical influences on the disseminator,” the authors add. “As such, it is imperative that we investigate the experiences of recipients to understand the STI disclosure process more comprehensively. “This is so we can continue to improve sexual health education and care for everyone.”

The authors suggest that future research should take a destigmatizing approach and emphasize that “initiating conversations about sexual health is everyone’s responsibility.”

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