TikToker Chris Olsen recently shared that he has contracted chlamydia three times. It’s a stunning admission considering how rarely other social media influencers ever talk about getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
“So I’ve had chlamydia three times,” Olsen said in a recently posted video, quickly adding, “End the stigma.”
“The nurse [at the STI clinic], who I’ve seen before … was like, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen you in a while,’” he continued. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s been a little dry down there.’”
Olsen said the nurse tried to hook him up with her gay son. When Olsen later found him on Instagram, he realized her son was the ex-boyfriend of a dude who ghosted Olsen last year. “The world is too small,” he wrote in his video’s caption.
The influencer also noted that the nurse called him later to say that his chlamydia test came back negative. “Small wins!” he said at the end of his video.
THIS WORLD IS TOO SMALL
? original sound – Chris Olsen
Olsen’s admission is especially noteworthy considering that the 25-year-old influencer has over 9.6 million TikTok followers. His video has gotten an estimated 8.2 million views as of Tuesday, January 24, 2023 — almost enough for every resident of New York City to have watched it once!
It’s hardly surprising for a sexually active queer man to contract an STI. Anywhere from 20% to 50% of Americans will contract an STI in their lifetime, according to the CDC and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
But, despite its commonality, it’s super rare for a queer man on social media to discuss contracting STIs, especially when they have as many followers as Olsen. That’s because people still feel a lot of slut-shame and stigma around STIs, as if they’re moral punishments for “bad behavior” rather than just common illnesses.
One friend compared STIs to colds and flus — illnesses you can contract in a playground — except the adult playground is the bedroom, and STIs affect your sexual organs rather than your respiratory organs.
“We don’t shame people for contracting colds,” the friend said, “so why should we for contracting an STI?”
Jenelle Marie Pierce, board president of the STI Project, said that STI conversations tend to be “wrapped up in a lot of trepidation, fear, ethics, and morality.” That’s why she praised Olsen’s video and its use of conversational humour.
“What I love most about this video is the casual conversation that’s taking place between the influencer and the audience, which is none too different than a typical disclosure conversation,” Pierce said. “In some ways, it’s serious, yes, but it can also be fun and affirming. It’s a dialogue where information is shared and decisions are made and then, hopefully, fun is had. What’s not to like about that, right?”
Pierce said more people should be talking about chlamydia considering that over 1.8 million Americans contracted chlamydia in 2019. But “unsurprisingly, we don’t have a lot of examples to reference,” she added, pointing out that celebrities are sometimes applauded or shamed for publicly discussing their own STIs.
As Olsen said, it’s time to “end the stigma.” Friendly conversations like his can help normalize STIs, change people’s perceptions of them, and keep friends and communities healthy and informed, stigma be damned.