Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Saurabh Sethi, MD, MPH
This interview has me feeling all of the feels.
Herpes, both HSV1 and HSV2, are well-known, but they are not known well. What I mean is, most people are terrified of contracting herpes, somewhat understandably because of the stigma, but most people have it – either strain, orally or genitally. It’s one of the most common infections, and yet it’s one of the most commonly misunderstood infections. The juxtaposition can be maddening.
Secondarily, the stigma is so pervasive, that after the first couple of intense outbreaks, if you get outbreaks at all, the psychological trauma tends to far outweigh the physical symptoms. And that trauma can be further exacerbated by people close to us who might mean well but who know absolutely nothing about the infection itself.
Interviewee, my heart breaks for you. Please send your mother to our site or a similar site so she can learn that she doesn’t have to bleach the silverware when you visit. Please tell her to stop doing that immediately. If you give me her number, I’ll tell her myself. Not really, but I’d consider it.
Thank you so much for sharing.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
3. What STI/STD do you have/have you had?
I have genital herpes.
4. How long have you had or known you have an STI/STD?
5. Do you know how you contracted this STI/STD?
I believe so. My boyfriend of a year complained of having lips sensitive to the sun, and he said they would break out in a way. Neither of us ever thought much of it. Celebrating an anniversary one month, we spent a lot of time outside in the sun, and we had oral and vaginal sex that night. His lips had started to look infected, but I brushed it off as sunburn.
I didn’t start feeling bad until about a week later. I thought I was getting the flu and then broke out with a rash on my vagina that spread out…far. I went to the after-hours clinic to be told I had a horrific herpes outbreak. And what I had thought was a zit…was also herpes…by my mouth.
I was more embarrassed and distraught than I had ever been. I contacted my boyfriend right away, and he went to get checked immediately. And that’s when it just got worse. He was diagnosed with herpes simplex 1, not genital herpes. I was accused of cheating, and then I accused him. It was horrible. But after a lot of talking, it came down to it that he had herpes simplex one, had an outbreak, and transferred it to me by oral sex. And he somehow managed to not get it genitally…
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STI/STD?
I try to stay on a strict diet of high l-lysine, which I have a hard time doing. Also I’m extremely cautious. With everything. One time I was out with girlfriends and one went to take a drink after me, and I about tipped the drink down her shirt while grabbing it from her. I’m so scared I’m going to transfer it.
7. Do the people who know you have an STI/STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
Somewhat, they do. I’ve only told my mother and my boyfriend. My boyfriend is okay, but the sex is less spontaneous. It really puts a damper on things. And my mother is almost more cautious than myself. When I visit and have dinner there, she bleaches the silverware I use. It’s shameful really.
8. Are you currently under treatment for your STI/STD? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.
I’ve had three outbreaks in 5 months. The first one was brutal. I used acyclovir, and it worked well. The second time, it was less awful, but I caught it early on and took acyclovir. The third time, I didn’t pay attention to the warning signs, and I got it pretty bad again.
9. Has having an STI/STD hindered past relationships?
Thankfully, I’m still with my boyfriend and haven’t had to go through that process. But it’s hindered ours, yes.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STI/STD affected your partner?
Like I said above, he’s understanding.
It’s aggravating to know I got it from him without him getting it [genitally], and I had to do a lot of forgiving to move on from that. I still think I hold some resentment. And he always says he’d be happy for me if the tables were turned. I’m not really happy for him though…. :/
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STI/STD whom you did not tell you had an STI/STD?
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STI/STD?
I am still embarrassed. There’s those moments when STDs come up in a movie or something and the people make horrible comments about the person. As you’re sitting next to them, you feel pretty low about yourself.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I guess, because I haven’t ever really told anyone other than my boyfriend and mother, it’s kind of nice to get it off my chest. And reading some of the interviews allowed me to feel not so….bad about myself.
I used to call myself disgusting and nasty because of this. But seeing how common it is, and [reading about] other’s situations…I feel better.
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!