I remember January 23, 2015 better then I remember my 18th birthday. On that last Friday morning of January at 9:09am, I read the worst email I could have ever imagined to receive. I was a senior in high school, I was 10 days away from being 18 and I was told I was positive for the herpes simplex virus.
I was divested. That in it’s self is a completely understatement. I spend the whole weekend crying my eyes out and depressed. I called my dad and asked him to get me out of school, claiming that I had thrown up in the bathroom. I didn’t want to keep going with my life. I didn’t want to hear what people would say to me. I didn’t want to feel like I wasn’t going to be happy, or get married because who would love someone with Herpes.
Growing up in school and watching movies I saw that we joked about Herpes. We acted like real people didn’t have it and that they deserved to be made fun of. We talked as if people with Herpes couldn’t sleep with “regular people”. For example in the Hangover, one of the lines, my friends dubbed as the best movie quote, “Remember what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, except for Herpes, that shit will come back with you”. I was now one of these infected, unwanted people. I had never felt more alone and disgusted with myself in my entire life. And it’s still hard not to feel that way some days. But I had never realized how much of a stigma there is around STDs and the people who live with them.
Herpes has a bad reputation as the worst sexual transmitted diseases and people who have it are either promiscuous, got cheated on or “got what they deserved”. Although I am HSV-1 positive, I can say I am not anyone of those things. Over the last 7 months I have learned a few things. I am living with an incurable disease but most importantly I am not any less of a person then I was 7 months ago. I may live with a stigma but I am still me.
I told a few friends, and a few guys I was interested in and everyone took it a lot better then I expected. I spent hours on the Internet and talking with my doctor and I learned that with meditation and proper protection, many people live happy lives with partners who can stay Herpes free.
I want to start the conversation on STDs. I want our society to stop fearing it and giving it the silent treatment. I want schools to stop scaring high schoolers in Sex Ed, showing people the worst case scenarios of pictures and just saying “don’t end up like this”. People shouldn’t be ashamed of what they have. STDs should be talked about like allergies, some people can’t have peanuts, and some have herpes. Both take medication and both can be inconvenience. I am so happy when I can educate my partners on what Herpes truly is and how they can be protected. I demanded that they don’t treat me any differently then someone else. I am willing to give them all the facts, and provide information and leave the discussion up to them. I have found most people are just ignorant about Herpes and want to learn what it is really like to have an STD. I have also found many of them have asked how they can support me.
This fall I am going off to college, I am going to pursue my dreams and I going to live my life the best way I can. I have found many other people online who have supported me and are going through what I am going through. You can’t let something that takes you off course define you. Herpes is something I have but it is NOT who I am. I may never be STD free, but you can sure bet I am always going to be me. And that is all that matters.