Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Saurabh Sethi, MD, MPH
There’s a lovely little video circulating right now by Nadia Bolz Weber where she talks about the difference between being a good Christian and being an honest one. The idea is that it’s much more empowering, freeing, and real to speak your truth rather than to attempt to always be good – good is subjective, whereas truth is direct and relateable. This idea also works if you replace Christian with Muslim, Buddhist, or Christian with person. See what I did there?
Having been diagnosed at a young age myself and feeling as though I was being punished by God, because I was not being a good Christian by having sex, this resonates with me. No one is only one thing (ie. good), and certainly, no one is perfect. But there’s something about the way we are indoctrinated into organized religion that makes us feel as though we need to be “good” all of the time. And when we are being good, by earning scholarships and going to church, for example, we assume some of the not-so-desirable things that can happen to humans throughout the course of a lifetime will miraculously skip us.
That type of thinking, unfortunately, makes an HSV1 and chlamydia diagnosis even less palatable. And it’s a shame, because science doesn’t care about your prayers and good deeds. lol. Thankfully, once we realize these outcomes have nothing to do with the kinds of people we are, we are better able to embrace the experience for what it is: an opportunity to learn, grow, and maybe eventually share our truth with others.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
College student in Public Health — the irony!
3. What STD/STI do you have/have you had?
HSV1 and Chlamydia
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD/STI?
A little over a year
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD/STI?
I got chlamydia from my ex during freshman year in college. He insisted we skip the condom, because he’s allergic to it. I asked him if he had been tested for STIs and he said yes. Turned out, he never got tested before that.
I contracted HSV1 from a summer fling back in 2013.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD/STI?
There are days when I think I can accept the cards I’ve been dealt. Then there are those days, especially during an outbreak, when I will get severely depressed. I am an overachieving student on scholarships and a Christian.
The stigma associated with the HSV virus has made me feel so worthless and disgusted at myself.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD/STI treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
The only people who know are my cousin and her mother. They took me to the ER during my initial outbreak. They have been very supportive and have treated me like it was just another case of the flu, something that is totally common.
8. Are you currently under treatment for your STD/STI? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.
Right now, I am not but have been thinking of getting a prescription for Valtrex as suppressive therapy since I get outbreaks once a month. I have tried zinc and lysine supplements before which seemed to be ineffective for me.
I adopted yoga, a healthy diet, and an overall lifestyle with minimal stress. It is really hard since I am a college student and always faced with exams and social events.
9. Has having an STD/STI hindered past relationships?
I haven’t had a relationship since my diagnosis. But I can say that it has been my main reason for not initiating relationships or letting it get farther for fear of being rejected.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD/STI affected your partner?
I do not at the moment. I am scared of getting rejected because of this disease.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD/STI whom you did not tell you had an STD/STI?
I haven’t, and I don’t know if I ever can. I still have to gather the courage to disclose it to potential partners, but I never want anyone to go through the anguish, betrayal, and hurt that I experienced during my diagnosis.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD/STI?
It has definitely made me realize that as a human being, I am not invincible. It is harder for me to trust, especially when it comes to dating.
I also feel like I’m becoming less social because of this, especially since I get cold sores frequently too, and I hate being around people during an outbreak.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I’m choosing to participate because reading other people’s interviews has made me feel like it is not the end of the world and I am not alone in this ordeal. I am hoping that by sharing my interview, I may be able to make someone feel the same.
Also, I want to increase the awareness about STIs and eradicate the stigma associated with them. No matter how much you love and trust a new partner, get yourselves tested before engaging in any sexual activity. Don’t just take each other’s word for 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!