STDs: Dont Ask, Don’t Tell?
Sarah woke up one Sunday with an aching pain in her throat. The night before, she had felt a bit sick after a week of intense studying and paper-writing. But, deciding her sanity was more important than her health, she threw back a few shots of Jose and hit the town with her girlfriends.
Rubbing her eyes the following morning, she was greeted by a lightly snoring Derek at her side. Crap, she thought, Colin is going to be so pissed.
Disheveled, Sarah grabbed her scattered clothes and headed to the bathroom to put herself together before enduring the never pleasant walk of shame.
“Ohmigodd!” she practically shouted. Her neck was as thick as her head and her eyelids so swollen she might as well have just lost in the ring against Mike Tyson. Splashing some cold water on her face, Sarah ignored the absolute atrocity that was her appearance and briskly walked back to her house.
Loading up on DayQuill, NyQuill, and hot tea galore, she spent the day nursing her moral and physical hangover — as well as her cold. Hours later, still feeling lousy, Sarah went to the student health center and got a strep and a blood test. The result: She had mono.
Rather than worrying about the state of her body, or (more importantly) her liver, she immediately worried about her hookups. She had both Colin and Derek on a cycle, wasn’t serious with either of them, but had swapped enough saliva with both to infect their bodies with the pesky virus she now endured.
Do I tell them? she pondered, Or just risk it and hope they both get lucky?
This scenario is all too common in college. I think it’s more uncommon to not get mono during your four years at university than to get it. However, what happens when your condition is even more serious? What if you find out you have HPV, Herpes, Chlamydia, or some other STD? Do you tell your current partner (and previous ones), or do you keep the secret to yourself and hope no one finds out?
This ethical dilemma is a scary but extremely realistic issue. According to a 2007 Stanford research study, 1 in 4 college students has an STD. A lot of the young adults are completely unaware they are even spreading a disease because they have never gotten tested. In order protect your partner, you need to actually know you’re infected. If you’re worried about your current state of cleanliness, head to your student health center, campus hospital, or STD testing site.
This conversation, however, is focused on those who have peed in that cup, gotten pricked with that needle (no pun intended), and received extremely undesirable results.
Morally, it’s important to tell your partner about any contagious little packages you may be carrying, from mono to HIV. In order to make sure your partner is protected, you need to wise up and take responsibility for your condition. Doing this is mortifying and difficult, but necessary. If you are in the know and can prevent the spread of a virus or bacterial infection, you should. You would want your partner to tell you, right?
So, we all know there’s a right way to handle the situation. If you’re infected, man up, tell your partner(s), and grab the nearest box of condoms. Ethically, if you know, you tell. If you don’t want to tell future partners, then you probably shouldn’t be in bed with them to begin with. But, as evidenced by the statistics, a lot of people are keeping their dirty little secrets to themselves mentally… and spreading them all around physically.
Even though Sarah only had mono, she proceeded to text each of the boys letting them know about her illness. They each went and got tested, came out of the entire situation mono-free, and were extremely grateful she told them about her virus. Yes, it was not the most pleasant experience for any of the parties involved. Rather, it was awkward and uncomfortable. But, it was a necessary precaution they all needed to take in order to ensure their well-being.
So, how would you handle this situation: Do you have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, or do you share all of your down-below info before getting serious with a special friend? And if you have had to tell previous partners (including old flames, casual hook ups and – eep! – bitter ex-boyfriends), how did you do it?