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High school is tough enough as it is – a dysfunctional right of passage, if you will – then couple that with contracting a taboo infection, and it’s no wonder so many teens find themselves struggling to build confidence or an identity not already embroiled in socially delegated stigma.
I was one of those teens, who, at 16 years old with a new genital herpes infection, had nowhere to turn and found myself everywhere from drugs to contemplating suicide.
This teen’s story, however, is different. With the advent of the internet (I’m not that old, but resources like The STI Project didn’t abound 15 years ago) and a little bit of Googling, at the very least, newly diagnosed folks no longer have to overcome misconceptions alone.
This interview was submitted anonymously via the contact form and is an example of how access to resources and external support can be the difference between life and the ability to move beyond inaccurate information to being mired in stigma for years.
Thanks so much, interviewee, for your submission and your bravery.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
I’m a sophomore in high school.
3. What STD/STI do you have/have you had?
Herpes type 2 – HSV2.
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD/STI?
I knew once I had a breakout. Diagnosed today.
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD/STI?
No. I am, literally, in shock. I have had sex with two people. Both virgins.
I guess that’s what happen when you trust someone. It couldn’t be my boyfriend now. It must have been my ex.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD/STI?
Believe it or not, I have such a better outlook on life now. I appreciate everyday I have. At first, I was positive my life was over, but now I know that this isn’t the end of the world.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD/STI treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
Only three people know I have herpes: my mom, my doctor, and my boyfriend. None of them treat me differently.
I’ve been with my boyfriend for a year, and I love him more than anyone. He’s the most amazing person I have ever met. He was the very first person to know anything. He treats me exactly the same and has been my biggest supporter. I don’t know how I would go through this without him. I don’t want him to get it, though, because, although it doesn’t ruin your life, it definitely has a large impact on it.
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.
My outbreak just ended, so I’m no longer on medication. However, when I was, I was prescribed Valtrex. Within 4 days, everything cleared up. I have a refillable prescription.
9. Has having an STD/STI hindered past relationships?
I am still with my boyfriend, and it hasn’t had any affect.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD/STI affected your partner?
Yes. He’s my best friend and is still attracted to me, which blew my mind – how he still wanted to be with me, to touch me, and loves me for me.
True love can happen at 15 years old.
I actually wrote him a long, long, long letter after we found out just telling him how much everything he has done means to me.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD/STI whom you did not tell you had an STD/STI?
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD/STI?
I’m so much more grateful for life and much more careful.
You think, ‘Oh, it’ll never happen to me,’ but it does. Be careful.
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 only 15. Not many 15-year-olds would want to share this kind of stuff.
I have a lot of friends, but this is something I can’t talk about to them. I need to get my feelings out there. I want to hear about people’s experiences.
I want to help people with my condition cope. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just the start of a much different one.
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!