Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
As if an HSV2 diagnosis isn’t enough to send someone whirling, then those who’ve you’ve entrusted with that personal information decide they should tell others about your infection.
That’s enough to make anyone depressed while feeling like a true villain – a horrible, undesirable person who people should ‘watch out’ for.
The problem with those who think they’re doing their moral duty by notifying partners for you is that the result makes someone who is diagnosed less likely to focus on their sexual health (one STD puts a person at a higher risk of contracting additional STDs). There’s a mutual risk when engaging in all partnered sexual activities, and putting the primary emphasis on the person who’s infected takes the focus away from being sexually responsible and communicative together.
While that ‘heads-up’ is sometimes well-intended, this interviewee’s story is a testament to how indirect stigma and subtle pushes implying that those who might engage in activities with us are the victims can make someone with an STD feel worthless and as if they are not deserving of a loving, respectful, and healthy relationship themselves.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
3. What STI/STD do you have/have you had?
HSV2 (genital herpes)
4. How long have you had or known you have an STI/STD?
5. Do you know how you contracted this STI/STD?
The second person I had engaged in sexual activity with was infected, and our condom broke one night. He had been cheating on me with numerous partners, but I was stupidly unaware.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STI/STD?
I’ve had my struggles with anxiety and depression, but as the years have passed, the depression has become less severe, as have the outbreaks.
I still suffer from anxiety when I inform romantic partners of my condition.
7. Do the people who know you have an STI/STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
I was terrified to tell people close to me.
My mother was the one who took me to urgent care when I suffered my first outbreak. The news was devastating to the both of us. My mother had a problem with keeping it to herself and told people who had no right to know or who should have been told by me, not her – including my son’s father, the day after we had began our relationship.
Thankfully, he was understanding and didn’t say anything about it until I had told him myself. He was very understanding, and unfortunately, wound up contracting it himself. He was the person who helped me get through it the most.
My sister is very supportive, but is always on me about informing romantic partners, and sometimes becomes quite forceful about it.
I never have relations with people before I tell them, but I do try to wait until I get to know them before I tell them; that way, they know who I am, and not just what I have.
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 attempted to get on the daily dose of Valtrex when I first contracted HSV2, but the pharmacy and medicaid gave me too many problems, so I gave up on that.
I’ve tried natural remedies like Goldenseal Root, which seemed to lessen the amount of time an outbreak would last… To keep the outbreaks at bay, I normally just make sure to keep very clean and try to avoid stress, which seems to work better than anything.
9. Has having an STI/STD hindered past relationships?
Thankfully, no. I met my sons father about 5 months after finding out I was infected, and he was very understanding. We were together for 4 1/2 years but recently broke up.
I just started dating again and it’s been tough. I always feel like I’m not worthy, but hopefully, I can find someone who understands, as my son’s father did.
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?
Once, in the heat of the moment, but we used protection, and I still beat myself up for it every day.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STI/STD?
I think I’ve become a stronger person after having to deal with such a life-changing experience.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I just want people to know that they are not alone. It sucks, but we can get through 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!