I thought a recent post from The Ethical Nag was great- not for its health topic (the author’s father dying of lung cancer) but for its social focus- the stigma of certain diseases, lung cancer among them.
Author Carolyn Thomas notes the stigma of having a disease which people view as “self-inflicted.” When I read that, the words of Terry sprung to mind:
“I got this disease from being human.”
Terry is a member at Positive Women’s Network and she’s living with HIV, not lung cancer, but her point is valid. She got HIV by doing something that society sanctions, pop culture applauds and advertising worships- she had sex. Yet now she’s stigmatized for having an STI.
Lung cancer is stigmatized because of its connection to smoking, even though not all those with lung cancer have been smokers. Thomas, who’s survived heart disease, says it too is often stigmatized as self-inflicted.
What’s the point of this shaming? Does it help people? How could it possibly improve the coordination of care or support?
We all make choices at some point or another that might not be the best for our health. Some factors we don’t have choices about – women in relationships that become violent is an obvious example. We may have genetic predispositions to certain health issues. Some choices we do have, thankfully, and learning more about wellness and health risks is important so we can make informed choices.
But we are all vulnerable to illness, disability, and disease.
We have to start right here, where people are in their health- and support them caringly as they face what can be frightening and painful diagnoses. That’s the care in health and community.
Youshouldknow.ca: sexual health news, views and science for women in perimenopause and beyond. Find info on preventing sexually transmitted infections, aging considerations, and relationship dynamics. Supportive information for all of us as we move into our middle years with partners new and old.
Browse our news archive by category. Subscribe to our general RSS feed.