I will never forget that red-letter day back in the dying days of the 20th century when my then-flatmate asked if I could take a peek at his family jewels. Given that he’d presented only as straight before then, and that if you cut him in half like a stick of rock, the words “GAY PANIC” would run through him, I was surprised by this sudden tangent. It turned out, after a few seconds of stunned silence, that this was not a come-on, but a request for medical assistance. Chris had something nasty on his woodshed, and wanted me to give my expert opinion. Quite why he assumed I’d have the requisite knowledge to diagnose him – some low-level homophobia that I was too dim to see at the time, perhaps – but I reluctantly went forth and had a look. Redness. Some kind of… oh I couldn’t go on, so bade him snap back the waistband of his tanga briefs.
“Can’t you just go to the, y’know, clinic?”
“No!” he squealed. “I’d be too embarrassed. What if somebody sees me?”
“Nobody is going to be interested! You’re not fascinating and you’re not famous.”
But it’s true, isn’t it, that sometimes there’s still this sense of shame around sexually transmitted infections? Perhaps it’s the method of infection and our own outdated hangups over sex, or the feeling that STIs are somehow “dirtier” than other illnesses. Whatever it is, it’s led to a rise in some STIs – according to this article on STIs from LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, a recent report by Public Health England (PHE) says syphilis cases are up to the highest number since 1949 – and that’s not a good look for any of us. While we may be talking more openly about sex and sexual health, if we’re not actually doing anything about our issues, we’re at risk of infecting others and also damaging our long-term health. Chlamydia, the most commonly diagnosed STI in 2017, can lead to fertility problems if left untreated.
What you need to be doing, then, is getting this checked out regularly. I eventually persuaded Chris to go the local clinic and he was back to his rampant self within days – sadly there was no cure for the terminally embarrassing underwear. I do hope, wherever he is now, that he’s managed to get over his embarrassment over STIs and, crucially, invested in some decent trunks.
One group most at risk from infection are young heterosexuals between the ages of 15–24. And it may be that this generation is more open about their sexual health – even if they’re a little more blasé about it. One friend who went for a routine test and shared the waiting room with the hospital’s STI clinic was amazed by the shareability of an STI. She told me there were people FaceTiming their friends while they waited to be seen, and doing Instagram Live videos of their progress. “I kind of admired how open they were but, of course, I didn’t want them to get me on video in case anyone I knew saw me and thought I had an STI! I’m too old and too married to have one, surely!”
No such thing, darling!
If sitting in a waiting room isn’t for you, LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor gives people a safe and convenient way to be checked, by delivering tests to your own home. Good to have options!
This post was produced in partnership with LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor and I received payment. Chris*, get in touch, and I’ll send you a few quid for some new shreds.
*All names have been changed. Except mine.