Making Disclosure Happen
Over the past several weeks there have been conversations around herpes disclosure and controversial statements made by supposedly credible medical professionals publicly stating that you don’t HAVE to disclose to potential sexual partners. As someone who’s actively involved with newly diagnosed individuals, I could not disagree more with that statement. While the discussion around sexual health status doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should, if you do have an STI, the responsibility of disclosing is on you; but the conversation about you and your potential partners’ sexual health is a shared responsibility.
We’re talking about sharing intimate space: sharing our bodies. Bodies have all kinds of organisms living in, on, and around them. There needs to be awareness of the risks we take when exchanging bodily substances, but unfortunately our sex education system hasn’t given us the tools that prepare us for what happens when we are met with an STI from a diagnosis or a partner disclosing to us.
The responsibility of disclosure weighs more heavily on the positive person in the interaction, but sexual health conversations can be a two-way street or a busy intersection, no judgment at all. All parties involved should create space for disclosure to happen. Here are some tips from HANDS – Herpes Activists Networking to Dismantle Stigma on how you can make disclosure happen. Thanks and special shout-out to KellyAnne (on Instagram as @V_for_Vibrant)!
1. You want to make disclosure easy by visiting safe social media spaces for sex ed and STI support including Instagram, YouTube and Reddit. Practice disclosing like you would with partners by voice or video recording yourself and playing it back. Tell a trusted friend, then another, then another. The more you say it, the easier it gets.
2. Make disclosure informing by using a journal to write out your own fears about sex and examine what sexual responsibility means to you. Investigate the facts around STI symptoms and transmission by learning from the experts about the best language to use while discussing STIs.
3. Believe it or not, we can make disclosure sexy! Explore self-pleasure in creative ways to get familiar with non-genital sexual touch. Talk about intimacy first. What does it mean to be intimate with partners? How comfortable are you with your body? Practice standing naked in the mirror and do self-worth/self-confidence affirmations.
4. Make disclosure happen by telling your partners that being responsible is important to you and that you find them sexy whether moving forward with the interaction or not. In casual situations, be clear and acknowledge their needs. Don’t leave it to the other person to bring it up and don’t wait until you’re in the moment to bring it up yourself. The best time to disclose is prior to being physically intimate with partners.
Let’s make disclosure easy, informed, sexy and happen!