The sexual well-being of individuals with sexually transmitted infections
University of New Brunswick
In addition to experiencing physiological symptoms, many people report that having a STI such as herpes or the human papillomavirus is associated with negative psychosocial outcomes, largely as a result of the significant stigma associated with these infections. However, there has been little research on the sexual well-being of individuals with STIs other than HIV/AIDS. The goals of the current dissertation were to: a) compare the sexual well-being of individuals with at least one STI to the sexual well-being of individuals without a STI; and, b) identify factors associated with sexual well-being among individuals with a STI using stigma theory as a framework. One-hundred eighty-eight women and men who reported they had been diagnosed with a STI as well 299 individuals without a STI completed an online survey that assessed their sexual activity, sexual concerns, and cognitive-affective sexual factors. Individuals with a STI also completed measures examining stigma and experiences relevant to their STI. Two manuscripts were generated based on this research. Contrary to prediction, individuals with STIs did not report uniformly poorer sexual well-being than that of individuals without a STI. Rather, individuals with a STI reported poorer, better, or similar sexual functioning on different aspects of sexual well-being. Furthermore, even in areas where individuals with a STI experienced poorer sexual well-being, they still experienced high quality sexual well-being overall. Among individuals with a STI, experiences of stigmatization emerged as the most important predictors of sexual well-being. That is, participants who perceived they were stigmatized by others as well as those who internalized negative social attitudes to a greater extent reported poorer sexual well-being across all dimensions, over and above individual and STI characteristics. The implications of these findings for sexual health educators and professionals are discussed.