Wednesday, November 19

I'm Guilty...

If you're here for my official Sex Positive Blog Hop pos, you can find that post here (but I hope you'll read this short blog entry, too).

While reading through some of the incredible articles in HuffPo's Teen Sex: It's Complicated series, I came across a phrase that made me cringe. The writer is a teenaged girl who certainly didn't mean any offence to anyone when she used the word "clean" to mean disease free. It's a common term. And the reason I cringed is because I've been guilty of it myself, much to my own chagrin.

Truthfully, I was just parroting what other people used to say. If you were HIV and STD negative, you were "clean". 

But think about that. What's the opposite of "clean"?


So does that mean that people who have HIV or herpes (two of the STDs/STIs that can't be cured) are "dirty"? Or that someone who has one of the curable STDs/STIs is "dirty" until they're done with treatment?

Of course not!

But that's what the implication of the word "clean"--that if your'e not clean, you're "dirty" and in the case of incurable infections like HIV and herpes, that is a terrible thing to say to someone, even without meaning to. It only adds to an already enormous stigma that comes along, particularly with being HIV positive. 

Get tested! If you're in MI, check out, if you live somewhere else in
the US, check out the CDC's website:
for a testing location near you
People make all kinds of assumptions about people who have sexually transmitted diseases/infections and there is a LOAD of misinformation circulating around the Internet and in people's heads and even in classrooms and Congress about what sexually transmitted diseases are and how they're spread. Believe me, I know. I volunteer for AIDS Partnership Michigan and most of the time my job is answering the help-line. Mostly I get calls from Michigan, but occasionally I get calls from other states--and it boggles my mind the things that people have been told about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Obviously it would be grossly unethical to give specifics, so let's just leave it with it blows my mind that in 2014 people still think they can contract HIV from doorknobs, toilet seats, shaking hands, or giving someone a hug--that people become anxious when they discover that a co-worker *might* have herpes or genital warts.  A) you can't believe everything that's said around the water cooler and B) unless you're having sex with the person, you don't have much to worry about.  

But people are still afraid. There's still a stigma. And using the word "clean" to mean "disease free" only adds to it. The more these conditions are stigmatized, the less people are willing to get tested for HIV and other STDs/STIs. If you don't get tested, you can't get treated, and just because something is incurable doesn't mean you can't live a normal, healthy life, IF you take care of yourself the right way--and "right" is something you can only figure out with your doctor. 

Here's another way to look at it: I don't have cancer. I don't have multiple sclerosis. I don't have Parkinson's disease. I don't have Alzheimer's. I don't have arthritis. I don't have lupus. I don't even have a cold. 

Does that make me "clean"?

Or does it simply make me free of diseases and virus infections?

Are people with these diseases/infections somehow "dirty" or less deserving of our love and support?

Please. Think about the words you use. Don't feed the fear. Don't add to the stigma.


Anonymous said...

Great post. I learned about it not being good to use "clean" to mean "not having an STI" through some blog posts by people in the kink community a few years back. A lot of people there are anti the "clean" language, and some folks write great informative posts about HSV and HPV. And the fact that they are NOT tested for on routine STI panels. As for HIV, it's still so stigmatized... *sigh* I still need to read Hanging by the Moment, you reminded me of this by writing this!

H.B. Pattskyn said...

Thanks, Sara!