Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR
The STI Project’s Experience with STD Support Groups
Since The STI Project’s launch, I’ve had very little opposition to the website or negative responses from both individual readers and other organizations working toward eradicating STD stigma, sexual health awareness, and/or STD prevention.
Quite honestly, I was surprised not to have encountered more heated, apprehensive, or disgusted reactions.
When I launched in April of 2012, I kind of braced myself for what I thought would be initial retaliation to addressing STDs and discussing my experiences openly.
What I found was a wealth of encouragement and support from all over the globe.
Of course, this was an incredible relief.
It was also a great indicator of the immense need for websites and organizations like this and it further validated my hard work.
That being said, any attempt at changing the minds of the masses surrounding a taboo subject such as STDs inevitably elicits dissonance sooner or later.
Where that dissonance came from was what surprised me most.
Over the course of the past week, I encountered a learning opportunity worth sharing with my readers after attempting to network with some private STD support groups on Facebook. Having been invited by a reader to join-in, I was delighted to see there was an underground network for people to ask questions and receive support from a hive of individuals who were living with the same or multiple STDs.
When I contracted genital herpes 14 years ago, groups like those were nearly non-existent.
I hadn’t participated in any kind of group since before Facebook was popular and I was thrilled I might be able to refer some of my readers to a welcoming community ready to answer their questions and let them know they were going to be ok.
What I experienced next was nothing short of appalling and alarming.
However, instead of dragging organizations through the muck by naming them and reiterating the details of a horribly unprofessional and immature progression of events, I’m going to take the high road.
It is not at all my intent to bad-mouth other people or groups so that I may get ahead or so my website is noticed above others. Rather, it’s important to me that all of us work together seamlessly. Most groups have excellent intentions, but as with anything in life, there are some bad apples out there.
I will continue to network with the excellent organizations, because, as a team, we have the power to change the way the world sees STDs and those who are living with an STI/STD.
Together, and only together, can we make this happen.
How to Find a Supportive Support Group
Luckily, in the short amount of time I was a member of the aforementioned groups, a lot of people witnessed their poor behavior and reached out to make sure I was aware not all groups handled themselves with such heinous decorum.
I knew this already, but their effort was not at all lost on me nor was the knowledge I had gained from those subsequent positive conversations.
All STD support groups have a little different style and are intended for different kinds of people or purposes.
Some are geared toward singles and finding a significant other who is living with an STI/STD, some are for the adventurous who wish to spend time doing activities with one another like white-water rafting and the like, others are for those who craft, some are geared toward ethnic people in particular, etc., etc.. I think you get the point.
There are also groups like I ran into that are toxic and cliquey, which will likely only make you feel worse.
Even the misguided groups can include some phenomenal people; unfortunately though, a support group is only as strong as its weakest link and the weak links can deteriorate all of the good.
Conversely, there are groups that will lift you up and those are the ones worth pursuing.
There’s a group out there for almost every kind of person with an STD, but joining a group is not for everyone. Participating in an STD support group does not fit everyone’s needs. There are around 10,000 people in total participating in various Facebook support groups specifically and upwards of 55-65 million people living with an STI/STD in the US alone.
Nonetheless, for those who think they might find solace in chatting with others who have been through the same thing, those groups can be a great place to start.
Should you be looking to join a group or to find other people out there who have the same STD, I’m happy to point you in a friendly direction.
Our external references page, and resources sections are also great places to look for forums and STD specific support – they are vetted and run by amazing individuals, they are welcoming, and they can also help guide you toward hate-free organizations.
Lastly, you can also message me via the contact form and we can chat about what you’re looking for in particular, and I’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
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Have you participated in STD support groups; what was your experience? Do you have a recommendation for our readers? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!