Last Updated on February 18, 2021 by Jenelle Marie Pierce, CSE, Executive Director
We believe that advocacy can take many forms.
Not everyone needs to or should ‘come out’ publicly; that’s not necessary to be an advocate for yourself and/or others. Sometimes, just sharing your story anonymously, like this interviewee has, is all that you can do, and that’s enough. That alone takes an incredible amount of courage. Some folks will decide to tell a few close friends or family members, and others will only ever tell their partners, and that’s ok too. And then there are others who will plaster their status all over their social media profiles, because that’s how they advocate, and that’s also ok.
We want to encourage you to do what feels right for your based on your situation, your safety, and your comfort level. Disclosing to new partners is challenging enough, and if you’ve done that, you already deserve a hug and a high five. Telling anyone else, whether anonymously or directly, is just a bonus.
Thank you, interviewee, for advocating for yourself and for beginning to share your experiences with those closest to you; you are a brave warrior, and we’re so thankful for you.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
Currently in transition; however, I have a background in marketing.
3. What STI/STD do you have/have you had?
4. How long have you had or known you have an STI/STD?
5. Do you know how you contracted this STI/STD?
I contracted herpes from an ex-boyfriend.
I was young and naive beyond reason, and I believed him when he said I was the only one. He believed he contracted it from his ‘ex’ girlfriend. I found out I had herpes while getting my first yearly exam. Afterwards, I called my best friend in shock and hoped and prayed that he didn’t pass it to me knowingly.
When I told him that I had herpes and that I knew for a fact I got it from him, he seemed shocked and apologized, but looking back now, I’m not sure if I believe that he didn’t know he had something.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STI/STD?
At first, having an STD had a huge impact on my life, but the impact was mostly emotional issues I had to overcome. For example: I felt like it was the end, like my normal dating life was over, and that I’d never be able to have a normal relationship… or that people would know and judge me.
I had had only one partner ever, and I winded up getting an STD… I felt like the joke was on me.
I stayed in the relationship with the previously mentioned ex for longer than I should have, partly, if I’m being truthful, because I thought I was damaged-goods and no one else would want me.
Now, I’m seeing this whole STD thing a bit differently. I’ve realized that, wow, the world hasn’t ended and that life does go on. I’ve had to have the difficult conversations, and yes there have been tears, but the important people who love me have stood by me and have been very supportive. Most of them forgot I even have an STD.
I’m still able to do the things I love, like: travel, kayak, and hangout with family and friends. So what if I have an STD? I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, I have herpes, but herpes does NOT define me.
7. Do the people who know you have an STI/STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
Telling someone I have herpes is really hard for me, I’m not going to lie.
I just told my mom this past year, and it was emotional. It took her a week to digest it, but wouldn’t you know, she still treats me the same (other than being extra interested in my immune health…but that’s all mothers, right?). Anyone I have told has treated me the same and has been emotionally supportive.
There are still people I choose not to tell, because I’m unsure how they will react, and its honestly not any of their business… It’s not like I’m planning on being sexually active with them, but maybe one day I’ll build up the courage to tell a few more of my close friends and family. For right now, the close-knit group I have told is a step in the right direction.
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 been using over-the-counter suppression medication – seems to work all right. I have begun to experiment with a few holistic and natural approaches too.
9. Has having an STI/STD hindered past relationships?
No, I was never one to date around a lot, so after I finally wised-up and left my ex, I decided to focus on me for a bit.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STI/STD affected your partner?
Yes, I do have a significant other.
While I was taking time to focus on myself, an amazingly persistent man came into my life, or at least kept trying to be part of it. At first I was scared…scared that once he found out I had a STD he’d be MIA or treat me differently. He had already voiced what he thought about STDs, so I wasn’t very confident this was going to go well or go anywhere really. I hadn’t had much experience in the dating game, but because of my experience with contracting herpes I knew I had to tell him I had an STD. I had to give him a choice.
I battled with myself for days, and I tried to think of stories I could tell him of how I got it, or make it sound like I thought I just recently contracted it… So the night came that I told him, but I’m ashamed to say it came out as a half-truth. So he knew I had herpes, but he didn’t know the whole story. I was still too ashamed that I had herpes to share my story with him fully.
His reaction was not what I had expected. He said he wanted to explore and see where this was going and that we’d be in this thing together. I was shocked, and a few weeks later I came out and told him the whole truth, which, was also super scary, but he still accepted me and told me that he appreciated my honesty. I remember him saying that one of the reasons he was willing to put himself into a ‘risky’ relationship was because I was honest enough to let him know and give him the choice to stay or to leave.
To shorten the story, yes, herpes affects my partner. We used condoms, practiced safer sex, and we didn’t have sex while I had an outbreak, but somehow he still ended up getting herpes. It had real consequences for him, due to the nature of his job. Once he got herpes, he had to make a career change. He has never blamed me, even though I have felt awful about giving it to him. He is continuously loving and helps me realize that herpes does not mean I can’t have real, lasting, and loving relationships.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting STI/STD whom you did not tell you had an STI?
No. I did tell a half-truth, initially, but before any sexual activity, my partner knew I had an STD.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting STI/STD?
I have gotten to the point where I realize and understand that herpes doesn’t define me. So, I still am me. I’m still enjoying life.
If anything, I have become more open-minded and realize, more so now, that you never know someone’s story. I try not to judge. Just because someone has an STI/STD, it doesn’t mean they were/are promiscuous.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I’ve come to the realization that life goes on and that herpes does NOT define me, but I still occasionally have those ‘woe is me’ moments.
I wanted to share my story to let others know you’re not alone, and this could really be worse…like we could have something that causes brain malfunctions or an incurable disease that leads to death. Instead what we really have is an STD that has a negative stigma; most people are weary of herpes, because they don’t understand.
I want others to know: life goes on, you can date, you can find love, and that you can’t please everyone. So find and keep those people who accept you for who you are, herpes and all.
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!