Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Shuvani Sanyal, MD
This interview came in as an anonymous submission via the contact form, and from there the author and I exchanged a few emails. She said, ‘Writing about my situation really makes me feel a lot better.’ Consequently, she’ll be posting a follow-up to this interview (which I’ll link through to once she does) in short story format to expand upon the parts of her story the interview leaves out.
Later, while discussing adding a short story to this post, the author wrote, ‘The more I learn about STDs, the more I realize that we absolutely should be able to openly and honestly discuss them whether we are infected or not. People talk about cancer, diabetes, alcoholism, and other common illnesses very openly; so, why don’t we do the same for STDs?’
For only 20 years old, this gal knows what she’s talking about!
Thank you, reader, for your willingness to participate and help others. Sharing your story in this fashion is a great way to promote emotional healing and it will go a long way toward developing the positive outlook I now have, one which took me 14 years to attain, but, in effect, will take much less time for you. 🙂
1. How old are you?
I am 20 years old.
2. What do you do for a living?
I am a full-time college student studying pre-nursing.
3. What STD do you have/have you had?
I am infected with HSV2. I have also had chlamydia.
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD?
I received the official diagnosis for HSV2 approximately one month ago. However, I don’t know exactly how long I have been infected. My best guess is that I became infected during the summer of 2012, but it could have occurred months after or even years before then.
I was also infected with chlamydia during the summer of 2012, but have since resolved that issue.
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD?
I have no clue how I became infected or who infected me with HSV2.
Whoever it was, I am guessing, they did not know they were infected when they had sex with me. Many people have herpes with no signs or symptoms. Some people carry the virus their whole lives without having one outbreak.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD?
My life has not changed significantly. The only thing that has changed is my mind. I now have a different, more well-informed perspective on things such as sex, love, and relationships.
My STD has influenced the way I view certain aspects of my life.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
Only four people, minus my doctor, know that I have herpes. None of them treat me differently.
They have all been very supportive of me and understanding of my condition. I have been blessed with a sister and several girlfriends who support me and don’t judge me.
However, there are many people whom I wish I could tell, but I can’t bring myself to do it because of the fear of being judged and/or criticized. I would like to tell my mom about this because we are fairly close and I talk to her about many things. However, I don’t think she would be very understanding of my condition. It is likely that, above all else, she would be very disappointed in me for allowing this to happen. I wish I could talk about this to all of my friends without the fear of being judged, but it is apparent that some of them just wouldn’t understand.
After I got chlamydia, I told one of my girlfriends thinking that she would be totally understanding and wouldn’t think it was a big deal. But I almost felt like she thought it was weird that I told her, and she was a little freaked out by the whole thing. I don’t think she realizes just how common STDs are, and it really could happen to any sexually active person.
I kept this ignorance in mind when I decided who I would and wouldn’t tell about my herpes diagnosis.
8. Are you currently under treatment for your STD? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.
Since I just discovered that I have herpes less than a month ago, I have only recently been introduced to the antiviral medication Acyclovir. Each cycle of the medication is taken 3 times a day for 5 days. I have taken several cycles of the medication, even after my first and only outbreak cleared up. Every time I feel even the most subtle hints of an approaching outbreak (i.e. itching, irritation), I immediately start the medication again to get rid of it before it begins.
I have been making some minor changes to my diet to help prevent outbreaks and improve my over-all health. I have been eating more yogurt, fruit, and taking daily supplements.
9. Has having an STD hindered past relationships?
I have only recently been diagnosed with herpes; so, I don’t have a lot of experience in this area. However, I believe that I passed the virus on to my very recent ex-boyfriend.
To my knowledge, he never actually went to the clinic to find out for sure, but he developed some very obvious signs of the virus shortly after we started sleeping together. I did not know that I had it at that point – that was the reason I went to get tested for it in the first place.
Fortunately, my ex was very understanding and did not get mad at me (though, I felt terrible about it). He didn’t even seem too worried about it at all, but that’s just the type of attitude he has.
We recently broke up, for reasons completely unrelated to my STD.
In all honesty, I am worried about how my STD will affect my future relationships. I’m really hoping that I will meet somebody who won’t think it’s that big of a deal.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD affected your partner?
I do not currently have a significant other.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD whom you did not tell you had an STD?
I have never slept with anyone while knowing I had an STD that they were not aware of.
Like I said, I do not know how long I have had herpes. I could have caught it 6 months ago or 2 years ago. There’s no way of knowing how long I have had it or who I have spread the virus to.
Now that I know I have an STD, I know that I need to be honest with my future sexual partners; so, I plan on doing that. I’m definitely not looking forward to that, because the fear of rejection is very real and over-whelming to me. However, I sincerely want a real relationship filled with love and honesty. I know I can’t have that type of relationship if I hide my STD from my future partner.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD?
I would say I have changed quite a bit. Many life-lessons came to me as a result of contracting these STDs.
Chlamydia was definitely my ‘eye-opener’ STD. Before I contracted chlamydia, I didn’t think anything like that could happen to me. After it happened, I realized that I wasn’t as invincible as I had so ignorantly thought. I remember after I got chlamydia, I was somewhat relieved because ‘at least it wasn’t herpes.’
It’s almost comical to me looking back on that experience, because I ended up being diagnosed with herpes several months later.
I have learned that STDs don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter your age, sex, economic class, ethnicity, or number of sexual partners you have had.
I really, really wish I had known what I know now, BEFORE I became sexually active.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with The STI Project?
I am doing this interview right now, because I am hurting. I am hurting and I’m trying to find a way to cope with reality.
I figured it might help to share my story with others. I take comfort in knowing that maybe my story can make other people with similar situations feel less alone. If there’s anything that kills me most about living with an STI/STD, it’s feeling alone.
I discovered The STI Project the day that I found out that I have herpes. I strongly believe in what The STI Project stands for.
The stigma surrounding STDs really is worse than the diseases themselves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed people being down-right ignorant and making judgmental comments about STDs and/or people with STDs.
As much as I hate to admit it, I used to be one of those ignorant people. I used to think STDs were only associated with ‘dirty’ people. Now that I’ve have had 2 STDs, one of which is incurable, my eyes have really been opened. I used to laugh at jokes about STDs, but now I cringe when people make those rude comments.
There are several stages that people go through after being diagnosed with an STD. I like to think that I am dealing with my diagnosis fairly well, but some days are worse than others. Today, I feel like I’m stuck on stage one – I feel very ashamed, embarrassed, and a little bit hopeless about my situation.
I am hoping that, as time goes on, I will be able to fully accept my reality, and move past this low point.
Can you relate to this interviewee? Did it help you to read someone else’s story? Have you experienced something similar or do you have some feedback to share with this individual? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!