Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
One of the most common things we hear at The STI Project is the misconception that people with STDs are promiscuous. The assumption is that, unless you’ve slept with a ton of people (whatever ‘a ton’ is), you won’t contract an infection. When, actually, the number of partners you have is only one of the many factors to risk.
This interview, submitted anonymously via the contact form, highlights how someone with just one sexual partner can contract HSV1 (or any STD, for that matter), and how a diagnosis can turn your perceptions on their end. The result, is, often times, quite positive – an STD diagnosis, for all of its negatives, is also a character-builder.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, interviewee. You’re not alone in having contracted an STD after one partner, and it is in the sharing of stories like these that we will be able to break down those misconceptions.
1. How old are you?
I’m 19 years old.
2. What do you do for a living?
I am a student at a state school.
3. What STI/STD do you have/have you had?
I have genital herpes, but HSV1.
4. How long have you had or known you have an STI/STD?
5. Do you know how you contracted this STI/STD?
Yes. He was the first man that I was ever with.
I do not sleep around, I do not experiment with sex; in fact, I always thought that I would wait for marriage. Sex was something that I thought would one day happen when I knew I was with the right person – sometime in the future. But curiosity got to me, and I let my guard down ONE TIME. And that’s all it took.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STI/STD?
I became depressed at first; it was actually not the virus that was the problem for me but the social stigma of feeling dirty and unwanted.
Although it’s only been 6 months, I have come to terms with it and have realized that I am not dirty at all, but in fact, a human being that just got unlucky.
Not to say that I’m happy; I still regret everything, but there isn’t anything that can be done about it now, and the only thing that I can do is stay positive on my outlook on life.
7. Do the people who know you have an STI/STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
When I had my first outbreak, I started freaking out and sunk into a horrible anxious/nervous/depressed breakdown. I’m the kind of person who finds therapy in talking, and my Mom knew something was wrong, so I confided in her. She was so supportive, and she is the reason I got through this so well. I’m still her daughter and she will always love me no matter what.
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 have only had one outbreak, and the doctor put me on valacyclovir. The outbreak took about a week to go away.
I still have the meds in my drawer, just in case it comes back, but I honestly don’t think it ever will.
9. Has having an STI/STD hindered past relationships?
I was getting closer to another boy, who I felt, by a certain point, had the right to know, and he said that he was okay with it and that we could work though it, but I still felt that he was a little taken aback by everything.
We have since broken up for other reasons, but the main point is that he did take in everything and was willing to work with me.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STI/STD affected your partner?
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STI/STD whom you did not tell you had an STI/STD?
No, I would NEVER not tell someone! That’s an awful thing to do.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STI/STD?
I think that I have [changed]. I used to presume that people with STDs were disgusting because they slept around. But that presumption is completely wrong.
I slept with one person and contracted HSV1.
I’m not dirty. I’m just unlucky.
Not that this diagnosis is a good thing, but it has taught me to be more accepting and empathetic. No one asks for the disabilities that they have; they only ask that others do not see them for their disabilities but rather their abilities.
I no longer make jokes about STDs because it’s not a funny subject but a sad one. People with them tend to feel rejected and broken: unlovable. There is no humor in that.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I was fortunate enough to have a support group to help me get out of my depression and move on with life. I know that there are lots of people out there that don’t.
Please, for anyone who is reading this, you are not gross and unlovable but in fact, beautiful and full of warmth. Your struggle will be your strength. Anyone you know, whether they are aware of the STD or not, has the privilege of knowing you because you are strong.
It takes guts to hold one’s head up high with a society that deems you dirty. Our struggle is our own, and it’s a hard one; that makes us stronger than many people who will never understand what is is to feel unwanted and then have the strength to rise above it.
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!