Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Saurabh Sethi, MD, MPH
One of the first questions interviewers ask me is if I know from whom I contracted herpes – HSV2, for me. And the answer is always the same, “No, I don’t, because when I was diagnosed, I had already been sexually active with more than one person, and I was too afraid of asking the wrong person who might then tell other people.” Such is the nature of the stigma associated with all STIs, but especially with HSV2.
This interview talks about that fear, and it was both comforting and disheartening to read that I’m not alone in having felt that way. In fact, I think that’s one of the primary reasons we don’t talk openly about sexual health, in general, but about STIs, in particular. We are uncertain if we can trust the person we’re having the conversation with, and the negative repercussions of sharing something deeply personal with a potential partner outweigh the benefits of having a thoughtful and practical discussion about our sexual health.
These interviews will, slowly, help to erode that fear, because acknowledging it and talking about why we don’t address these things openly is the first step in solving the seemingly insurmountable problem that is STI stigma….
1. How old are you?
20 yrs. old
2. What do you do for a living?
3. What STD/STI do you have/have you had?
Herpes – HSV2
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD/STI?
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD/STI?
I had sex with a guy who didn’t tell me he has herpes. I didn’t get a choice.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD/STI?
First, I was insanely depressed. I already have bad anxiety, so this only made it worse.
Luckily, though, I have an amazing boyfriend that has never made me feel any less human (unfortunately, I passed it to him, not knowing I had it yet). He is supportive and has never put any blame or shame on me. I’m glad I have someone there for me no matter what.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD/STI treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
Not at all. I’ve only told my best friends and some family. They were all more than supportive.
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 take valacyclovir/valtrex. I usually take it when I have an outbreak – not daily. (I’ve only had 2 outbreaks.)
9. Has having an STD/STI hindered past relationships?
Well, I hate the guy that gave it to me. That’s just incredibly f*cked up.
I never told him he gave it to me, and I never really talked to him again. I didn’t want him to tell everyone that I have it now, so I just kept quiet.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD/STI affected your partner?
Yes. He contracted it from me a couple of months after I had contracted it, but I didn’t know I had it yet, because no symptoms had shown.
He has been by my side through all of this. He held me as I was crying my eyes out when I found out that I had it, and he loves me unconditionally.
Not once has he ever made me feel like this was my fault.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD/STI whom you did not tell you had an STD/STI?
I would never do that, because that is what was done to me. I would never force this upon somebody. Like I said, I wasn’t given an option. I was lied to by a selfish person.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD/STI?
I feel like I care less now. I care less about what people think, and I’m confident in the people that I love.
I look at it this way now: if I had to go out and find a new boyfriend, and he runs away as soon as I tell him I have herpes, he wasn’t worth it anyways. In a way it’s a good thing!
Someone who truly loves you will not care about your STD.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I need to share my story for my own closure. I like to read others’ stories because they remind me I’m not alone in this.
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!