The Overblown Stigma of Genital Herpes

Even after his friends hype him up, Jamin Peckham still backs out sometimes. Due to this, Peckham said that he has to work harder than ever to secure a romantic relationship. Some think of people like Peckham as immoral, assuming only people who sleep around get genital herpes. The stigma of the virus, which exists at the heart of this faulty mindset, is usually worse than the symptoms themselves, as it affects dating, social life and psychological health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one out of six people in the United States aged 14 to 49 have genital herpes caused by the HSV-2 infection the herpes simplex virus often responsible for genital herpes. The overall genital herpes statistic is probably higher, the CDC stated, since many people are also contracting genital herpes through oral sex caused by HSV-1 the kind of herpes usually responsible for cold sores. According to the National Institutes of Health , many people with genital herpes never even have outbreaks or their outbreaks decrease over time one or two outbreaks a year is not uncommon. The virus can lie dormant in your system for years without coming to the surface.

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A few years ago, back when I was regularly trolling OKCupid for dates, I received a message from a potential paramour. He’d been scanning through the survey answers associated with my profile, and one response in particular gave him pause: when asked whether I’d consider dating someone with herpes, I’d responded no. It wasn’t some carefully considered stance on sexual transmitted infections, or grand statement about herpes.

For him, however, it was a potential deal breaker: As you’ve probably figured out by now, my suitor was a member of that vast group of sexually active adults who’ve been infected with herpes. The internet was supposed to be transformative for people with incurable, but highly preventable, STIs like herpes simplex virus HSV who wanted to date while being open about their status.

There’s no question that these sites which have even spawned their own Tinder-like apps are a fantastic demonstration of how innovative online dating platforms can be. But even as they bring together a number of people living with STIs, they don’t seem to do much to improve general education about living with herpes and other STIs. And as a result, people going online in search of connection and support often end up feeling stigmatized, isolated, and more alone than ever.

And in the beginning, that seemed to be the case. Hoping to improve her prospects, or at least connect with people in a similar position, Ellie turned to the internet. But despite the promise of community and support, she found that STI-focused dating sites just made her feel worse. And since these sites’ only criterion for joining was an STI diagnosis, members didn’t really have that much in common aside from their diagnosis, which many seemed obsessed by.

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Living with Herpes – ‘God Changes One Life at a Time’ – A Short Story

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It took years for Davis, founder of The STD Project , which encourages awareness and acceptance of various sexually transmitted diseases, and spokesperson for Positive Singles , a dating site for people with STDs, to come to terms with the diagnosis she got at age When she was diagnosed with herpes almost three years ago, Whitney Carlson, 29, a social media editor in Chicago, had a similar reaction. The infection, which is caused by the herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2 viruses and passed via skin-to-skin contact, can show up as a cluster of sores on the mouth area or genitals.

Around two-thirds of people worldwide under age 50 have herpes simplex 1, according to the World Health Organization , and around one in every six Americans between ages 14 and 49 has genital herpes, usually caused by herpes simplex 2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both Davis and Carlson eventually moved past their initial panic and saw herpes for what it is: an infection many people have that happens to usually get passed through sexual contact.

In the past, Carlson would put the herpes conversation on the table quickly. On sites like Positive Singles and HMates , users are expected to be open about their diagnoses, but because they know everyone else there has an STD, too, it removes a huge barrier—and the question of whether the information will send a potential partner packing.

Carlson, who got back into dating via this kind of site after her diagnosis, agrees.

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