When it comes to women's health, knowledge is power
Did you know that worldwide, more than 1 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired every day, according to the World Health Organization ?
Yet, major stigma is still attached to STIs - and due to societal ideas about sex, an STI diagnosis can make people feel ashamed, embarrassed, or angry.
As with all health conditions, this stigma is harmful and unhelpful, preventing people from seeking initial diagnosis or treatment. Yet, contracting or living with a sexually transmitted diseases can be common and normal.
While women are more likely to contract STIs, they are also more affected by these stigmas than men. Multiple sexual partners, while traditionally celebrated among men, is seen as more shameful for women, with STIs often viewed as a punishment for promiscuity.
Shattering stigmas and encouraging education
Stigma often has roots in misinformation and myths, from which grows a lack of knowledge and understanding, and subsequent judgment.
On a mission to provide professional and well-researched information around STIs and vaginal health is Caroline Goodner, CEO & Founder of FemiClear [pictured above].
FemiClear is breaking boundaries in over-the-counter vaginal healthcare by tackling conditions many don't want to discuss - like genital herpes, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis (BV) - to help shatter stigmas, educate others and heal women's bodies. FemiClear wants to support and help women reach solutions and relief from common vaginal health issues.
Embracing equity around women's health
Caroline advocates for embracing equity around women's health, in particular vaginal health, to ensure that women have the information and the care they deserve.
"It's normal for women to put their needs last. As kids, we're taught to stuff down our feelings so that nobody else feels uncomfortable. In school, we often find that too much curiosity isn't always welcome, and at the workplace we choose our words carefully, and sometimes we're assigned tasks that aren't on anybody else's job description. As mothers, we often put our family's needs first, and this makes us feel over-run and tired. From birth onward, women must fight to be heard and prioritized because we start getting quiet, we don't raise our hands as often we take on the lion's share of responsibilities both at work and at home," explains Caroline.
"According to the Journal of Women's Health research, support for diseases that primarily affect men are well-funded, but in contrast research and support for diseases that primarily affect women are chronically underfunded. With all the expectations that are placed on women to keep the world turning, and with the many very real ways that the U.S medical system is neglecting women's health, it's not surprising that women have to push for acknowledgment that vaginal health really matters. As women, we deserve to feel good about our whole bodies. It's time to embrace equity in women's health, and when we say women's health we mean the whole woman. Vaginal health shouldn't be a second thought or something that we whisper about. I's at the very core of our womanhood, and we should be able to speak openly and freely about it. Historically people only cared about our vaginas when they were doing something for someone else, like giving pleasure or bringing life into the world. But we live in our bodies all the time," she comments.
"It's time to #EmbraceEquity and to ensure women have the information and care they need to feel good."
"We strive to #EmbraceEquity by talking openly about sexually transmitted infections like genital herpes, which disproportionately affects women both in incidence and in severity of symptoms," explains Caroline. "Today and every day, we #EmbraceEquity and stand up for women's health."
Knowing your status
Knowledge is power, and FemiClear urges women to get tested regularly for STIs, even without symptoms, as these can take time to appear. Without testing and treatment, STIs can be passed on to other people and damage the body.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Vaginal bleeding that seems unusual Itching, pain, or burning in the genital area
- Sores, warts, or blisters around genitals or anus
- Any discharge that seems different than normal
- Pain with urination
- A rash in the genital area
Opening up conversation around STIs includes being comfortable and willing to share any current diagnoses of active infections with partners.
Seeking support from others
For women feeling anger, shame, or confusing around an STI diagnosis, FemiClear encourages them to remember that STIs are common, and therefore seeking support is a good antidote to these negative feelings. For example, share a diagnosis with a trusted friend or family member, or join a support group either in-person or online.
Taking control of our health
FemiClear wants women to take control of their health, and the first step towards achieving this is learning about our bodies. Researching trusted resources, reaching out to health care providers, and taking the time to learn what feels 'normal' in your body, can make it easier to sense when things aren't right.
Stand up for women's health
This IWD, #EmbraceEquity and stand up for women's health by fighting the stigma around STIs. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more you can do.
Everyone has the power to help break the bias around women and sexually transmitted infections. Knowing the facts, knowing your status, and taking care of your body are ways to reclaim your power.
This International Women’s Day, know that you’re not alone and that there are millions of women standing behind you, no matter what your STI status is.