Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR
Contracting HSV1 genitally is becoming more and more common. In fact, it’s so prevalent in the UK that it is now the number one cause of genital herpes, over HSV2. Despite how frequently people are contracting HSV1 genitally, there is still a lot of misunderstanding about the two types of herpes simplex virus.
For instance, most folks don’t realize that cold sores are HSV1 or that you can contract HSV1 from oral sex. Those who are aware of the risks might assume a condom will protect them from the infection. But HSV1 and HSV2 are transmitted via skin to skin contact, and condoms don’t always cover all of the exposed area.
That’s why, sometimes a diagnosis of HSV1 genitally is even more overwhelming than HSV2, because it’s commonly contracted via oral sex with partners who are trying to use some safer sex methods and are shocked when they contract a genital herpes infection.
With a lot more storytelling and education, we can alleviate that kind of extreme reaction, but admittedly, we have a ways to go until we’re there.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
I’ve worked many jobs. I’m still discovering what I like and what I want to do. Currently, I’m doing senior care-giving.
3. What STD/STI do you have/have you had?
HSV1 genitally. I’ve never had another STD.
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD/STI?
2 months. I took it very very hard.
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD/STI?
No, not at all. I was very very confused.
My current boyfriend of 3 years tested negative twice. I have only had protected sex and was not at all promiscuous. Not knowing made this diagnosis that much harder.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD/STI?
I went through a huge depression over this diagnosis. Something I always took pride in was my sexuality and how educated and safe I was.
I was the friend who joked about being a slut-and that was ‘my thing;’ I was the slutty girl who everyone knew wasn’t actually a slut. But when I got diagnosed, I greatly disconnected from that persona, because it no longer felt like a joke.
I took about 1 month to heal, cope unhealthily, cry, sleep, and write about my experiences in order to start this healing process.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD/STI treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
The people who know absolutely don’t think of me differently.
It was ME who thought of me differently.
I refuse to tell my mother, though, because I feel like she would judge me and just think of it as a consequence for my actions.
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.
I was prescribed some meds that started with an A and they didn’t do anything at all both times.
My first outbreak lasted 2 months and is still ongoing – I keep having recurrences.
As of right now, I’ve decided to discontinue my birth control to see if that helps. I just lost insurance, so doctors didn’t have time to explore more into why my breakout is lasting so long.
9. Has having an STD/STI hindered past relationships?
I have only been in one relationship since being diagnosed and my boyfriend really doesn’t treat me differently.
Our sex life has been discontinued, accordingly, which is fine for me. We spent over a year being abstinent with each other before this diagnosis, so it was not difficult to become abstinent again for us.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD/STI affected your partner?
Yes, at first he was so scared that he gave it to me, because months earlier my s/o had a bump on his pelvic region that I freaked out about. I was scared he had herpes (ironically, I was the one with herpes), and yelled at him to get tested, because I was horrified and scared.
He never did until later, so before he got tested again, after the fact, I felt a large amount of animosity thinking he had given it to me due to negligence.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD/STI whom you did not tell you had an STD/STI?
No. Not at all.
I have not thought seriously about sex since diagnosed. I don’t think I could bring myself to have sex again.
I wouldn’t blame someone for not wanting to have sex with me, I’d feel too embarrassed.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD/STI?
Uhhh, I think I need more time. Although I’m very very angry, upset, and frustrated now, I think that once I overcome this, I will be able to have such a strong voice about STD stigma.
I’ve never been one to keep quiet, so coping with this dirty secret has been hard because of the kind of person I am.
Once I get out of this, I’m going to be able to beat it.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I want other newly diagnosed people to know there’s hope.
I felt like I’d rather have cancer than herpes when I was diagnosed, and I contemplated suicide. But life goes on, and nothing is more beautiful and genuine than not being afraid of the things society tells you to be afraid of.
I do have herpes, but I’m not a slut, I’m not promiscuous, and I’m not unsafe. The truth is, you could be like me, using Clorox wipes on toilets before using them to prevent STDs, or you can educate yourself and others.
Never give in to the stigma. If you have the strength, power, and confidence, you can defeat anything – even herpes stigma.
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!