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A Surprising Number of People Are Getting Their STD Diagnoses From Reddit

Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes—we’ve all heard the names of common sexually transmitted diseases, yet it is a topic that many people are uncomfortable discussing. According to American Sexual Health Association, “one in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25.” Researchers have also estimated that at least 80 percent of people who are sexually active will have an HPV infection at some point in their lifetime.

There is a large number of people who do not seek treatment for STIs, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating that undiagnosed STIs “cause 24,000 women to become infertile each year.” Fear of STIs is a real thing, and the stigma surrounding these infections often prevents people from getting regular screenings.

"There are still a lot of myths and misunderstandings about having an STI," June Gupta, MSN, at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told Bustle. "It’s important to remember that having an STI doesn’t make you any less good, valuable, or worthy of love. Your status doesn’t make you 'clean' or 'dirty.' Everyone deserves to have their sex life be healthy, happy, and free from shame and stigma."

Although there are several tips from professionals on how to make testing less scary—for example, remembering that STIs are common and treatable—people are also turning to the internet for help. According to Healthline, a study from the University of California, San Diego, published in the journal JAMA, has found that thousands of people are using Reddit for a “crowd-diagnosis” for their sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Researchers obtained all the posts in a subreddit forum, r/STD, from 2010 to 2019, which Healthline notes totaled almost 17,000. The researchers highlighted 500 posts, and focused on how people were requesting a crowd-diagnosis, and even wanting a second opinion after going to a medical professional.

Although it may be appealing (and convenient) for people to search for help anonymously, and the internet has become a great source of information, medical professionals have noted that this way of seeking answers has its drawbacks. Those giving advice may not have a medical background and are therefore unable to give an accurate diagnosis.

“There is no way to know who is answering these questions and addressing the concerns of the people writing in this venue,” Dr. Barbara Keber told Healthline. She added, “I especially have concerns about [people] using this as a ‘second opinion’ following an office visit with a licensed professional.”

[Image via Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock.com]

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