STD rates are up to three times the national average in Chicago - why is herpes still a stigma?

Research has shown that an STD diagnosis has a significant impact on one’s quality of life, to the point where it reduces the ability to face daily problems. People who have sexually transmitted diseases are thus at a higher risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and social isolation. Sometimes, these negative psychological effects are stronger than the physical impact of the disease, preventing people from making lasting romantic connections. For STDs that have no known cure, such as herpes, the emotional toll that a diagnosis can take is devastating. Even STDs that are perfectly curable, such as chlamydia, are scarier than fatal diseases.

And yet, sexually transmitted diseases are extremely widespread, especially among the young population. In Chicago, STI rates are double to triple the national average, according to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health. Thus, Chicago residents are two times more likely to have chlamydia and three times more likely to have gonorrhea compared to people from other areas in the US, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that the bigger a city is, the more diverse the backgrounds and sexual practices. According to researchers, the highest rates of infection are found in South and West Side Chicago. Women seem to be diagnosed with STIs more than men, but scientists say that happens because women are screened more often for infections, while STIs in men often go undetected. The most common sexually transmitted diseases among Chicago residents are gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV, and genital herpes.

Considering the high rate of infection, the fact that STDs are still stigmatized is very surprising. Research has consistently shown that STDs are surrounded by an irrational stigma, which is extremely detrimental to mental health. Many people need years after the diagnosis to get back into the dating scene – if they ever get back at all. But an STD diagnosis needn’t be synonymous with a lonely life. Many infections are treatable and, even if they’re not (like in the case of herpes, for instance), there are ways that partners can continue to have a fulfilling sexual life. Certain drugs can minimize the risk of transmission, and so can avoiding intercourse during active breakouts.

In recent years, there has been more awareness on sexually transmitted diseases, but, even so, many people prefer avoiding talking about the diagnosis for fear that they might be misjudged. This has led to the emergence of a new wave of inclusive dating platforms designed especially for users who have STDs. For example, is a platform where people can read reviews for the best herpes dating communities. Since all the users on these websites are also singles with an HSV-1 or HSV-2 diagnosis, you don’t have to worry about being judged or having uncomfortable conversations if you’re not ready yet. It can also help you restore your self-confidence after a diagnosis and gradually get back into the dating game.

Some of these herpes dating sites have millions of active members, which begs the question: when will the stigma disappear?

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