“About 4 years ago, I found out I had HSV2 - Genital Herpes. This shook my world. I did not tell one single soul about it for 2 whole years, and in fact was living largely in denial during that period. I still slept with women and never told them for fear that I would be alone forever. As time went on, this denial created a disconnect between myself and my body - I knew I was living out of alignment with my own values, and my body reacted in turn. I started having difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection. At my core, my body was PREVENTING me from partaking in a behavior that was inauthentic and incongruent with who I really was. About two years ago, I revealed to a small group of people that I had herpes. This then led to me disclosing to women ever since, and soon finding the love of my life. I have not had any trouble with erectile dysfunction since that day I shared my secret with others. My mission now is to assist others living in secret to own who they are unapologetically and without shame. We are each beautiful souls - and having herpes does not diminish this.”
“Contracting genital herpes ( HSV-2) was a shock, a numbing rush of shame, anger, fear; disgust with myself. I felt that I had been stripped of my sexual freedom, I had only just started. Physically all I could feel was hot, pulsing pain acting as a reminder, a trigger to my discomfort; a painful birth to this new body of mine I had to grow back into. I could feel my body clench, tense, shrivel. Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion, all I could hear was a ringing in my ear; all I wanted to do was float, wade in the numbness; the way one sits on the bottom of a pool to think, to escape. All of the insecurities I felt about myself and my body became facts about myself and my body, they pulled me deeper underwater. looking in the mirror became impossible, I almost wished genital herpes was something you could see all the time. Its invisibility made it easier to pretend I didn’t have it, that contracting it didn’t actually happen, it was just a nightmare. I was pulled out to sea by the current of shame and overthinking. It became comfortable to hold rejections hand, I wasn’t afraid anymore, it was now inevitable that I would be rejected, that I would be alone.”
“So in 2014, I’ve been diagnosed with genital herpes.
I had to learn to date again. I had to play with when and how to break the news to people I was interested in. I experimented with telling them too early and I accidentally told people too late.
The STD made me feel physically uncomfortable during breakouts, which occurred when I was stressed...but more so mentally uncomfortable. I was more obsessive with the fact that I passed this on to someone without knowing and I felt that I wasn’t put on this earth to harm anyone, that’s how I discovered it. Like I mentioned, properly dating seemed like so much pressure when all in all I wanted to hide it away with medicine like a dirty secret. I didn’t feel dirty until I anticipated a response from someone. I hated having to disclose this or even deal with this.
It wasn’t until I grew confidence in the research. The research states that so many people have this STD! It's common! Whether it be active or dormant...I accepted that I’m now part of this club...and it is what it is. Add this to the fun facts of Amira Bryant.”
"When I was born, I contracted HIV from my birth mother so I’ve never known a life without an incurable STI. I’ve been open about it since I was seven. While my peers weren’t openly hostile towards me, but they didn’t include me or invite me to playdates or parties. I got invited to one sleepover party when I was about nine. The scars I bear from my fight can be a source of insecurity. The scars on my chest and neck are from a catheter inserted into my heart when I was in a coma as a baby. The scar from my feeding tube looks like a second belly button and it’s been hard to overcome those insecurities and love my skin. Since my status is right in my bios on social media there is no worrying about disclosing and it usually filters out potential boyfriends when they add me on social and decide then and there if I am someone they want to pursue, and that goes with friendships as well. I still have areas that I am insecure about, like everyone, but HIV is not one of them. My virus is undetectable and cannot be transmitted to anyone else and I can live a fairly long normal life and have children of my own someday."
"I contracted genital herpes at 18 years old from someone that I was dating that did not disclose to me that he had it. I felt betrayed, alone, used, shocked, scared, ashamed, angry, stupid, dirty, disgusting and worthless. I grew up religious and never thought that contracting an STI would ever happen to me because after all, I was not that "type of girl". "Guys tell me I'm 'wifey material' so how could I have gotten herpes?" I'd ask myself over and over again.
13 years later, though it still can be tough to talk about at times, herpes went from an enemy to a teacher, helping me to constantly question and challenge my conditioning around STIs and the root that the stigma of herpes comes from, which is the stigma of sex itself. I've come to a place of respect for herpes and its mysterious role in mother nature, realizing that I have no idea why humans contract viruses like herpes and that it has nothing to do with "God's wrath or sexual immorality". Not only have I gained peace of mind in sharing my experience with herpes, but I've learned to embrace the Sex Goddess that I am."
“It’s still difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact I’ve had an STI for as long as I’ve been alive. I used to sit in health class and listen to the lectures about how abstinence was the only way to prevent STI’s, and that your life was basically over if you contracted one, but I didn’t have sex until I was 21, so there I was left with the recurring question - what about me? HIV stigma is understood as people not wanting to touch things I’ve touched, or share food or drinks, or even have sex with me because I’m HIV positive. But stigma goes deeper than that and there is a whole world of it living inside every HIV positive person. The stigma I put on myself is stronger than any stigma I’ve faced from others. What people don’t see is the hours I spent as a young girl numbing out in front of my mirror because I wanted to get as far away from my HIV positive body as possible. Or the relationships I ruined because I was so wrongly convinced that if I let anyone near me all my body would do is hurt them. Or the hours I’ve spent in the middle of night sitting in the shower, praying to the God I don’t believe in to somehow wash this thing out of me so I could experience life without feeling inherently tainted. I grew up believing my body was the worst, most flawed, most disgusting and dirty body to ever be brought into existence. Living with HIV as a little girl taught me that my body was not one to ever be desired, and I was no one to ever be loved because of it. What I never expected in my process of reclaiming my body was finding power and healing through sex. It wasn’t until I first had sex and the world didn’t explode, no one died, and my partner tested negative that I realized every negative concept and belief I internalized about being HIV positive was absolutely incorrect. What was even more powerful was what happened afterward - people still wanted me and I felt more at home in my body. Stigma taught me that I would never have anything good. Sex taught me that my body is desirable and capable of giving and receiving pleasure without harming anyone in the process. It made me see my body in a totally new and de-stigmatizing light. Aside from sex, HIV doesn’t weigh so heavy on me now. It’s just a diagnosis. My body is my body, and it’s a pretty great one that I now know is full of desire and love, for me and my partners.”
“Seeking ways to reduce risks of GHSV-2 outbreaks made me bring attention to my connection to my body, I had to MAKE myself more attractive by becoming fit. I believed I had to have more to offer so that having herpes was insignificant to sexual partners. The process of establishing this connection, I learned to appreciate my body’s ability to withstand the pressure I put it under. I love how it responded not by doing what I wanted it too, but what I NEEDED it to do. The training I put my body through expanded to my mind. I learned not only do I HAVE a strong body & mind, but I myself am the strength that expresses itself through the body and mind in the formlessness of spirit, which explores, expresses and experiences itself through the tools of the body and mind. My relationship with my body didn’t ‘change’ after my GHSV-2 diagnosis, it began after my GHSV-2 diagnosis.”
“Initially my relationship with my body didn’t change after my herpes diagnosis. I stayed in a toxic relationship, took daily valacyclovir, and essentially ignored herpes as if it wasn’t there because I was scared that no one would want to have sex with me. After ending that relationship, I realized I couldn’t just ignore it and herpes didn’t define who I was. I stopped taking valacyclovir, I went to the gym at least five times a week to reduce my stress, and I began respecting my body more.”
“I got HPV from a man I loved over a humid summer. My doctor said to come back in six months to have another exam because my PAP showed precancerous cells around my cervix. “So do I have actual cancer?” I was 20. “A healthy young body should fight off the cells.” My body did not, could not, fight it off. They scraped and swabbed and after two years I had a LEEP procedure. I felt sickly. What had I done to my body that it cannot do what is expected? I felt like my body was not mine. I became promiscuous in an effort to prove I was normal. My sexual body didn’t belong to me. I gave it away.
Eventually, I had an exam without abnormal cells. Nice work body. You did it. But why do I still feel like it failed? It was weak. Susceptible to infection. Raw.
I am still struggling to give my body the credit it deserves. I say thank you, I give it the right food and hard exercise. I wish I had a happy ending to this story... instead I'll say we are working on it.”
“In 2017, I was diagnosed with the herpes viruses after contact with an older male who I met after a 7 year relationship ended. I soon found myself trying to escape from him as he lied to me, blackmailed me with revenge porn using a hidden camera, abused me, created an online smear campaign against me using my std status to try and shame to suicide, and stalked me for about 2 years leaving me to have to go to police where charges were filed against him. I have had to be open about my status to the courts and I have had to testify about what he put me through. It is something I am still dealing with. Herpes cannot define me. I am a survivor and have lived through a nightmare. I am proud of my fight. Dear Brave Girl, you are you and no diagnosis changes that.”
“February 19, 2018: The day some random receptionist called my phone telling me news I never knew I would hear. I tested positive for Herpes. My whole world stopped. I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t sleep. I needed answers. I couldn’t even touch myself. I felt like I no longer recognized the woman I saw in the mirror. In a weird way, hearing this news was possibly the best thing to happen to me. Hear me out. Hearing this news made me look inside myself and unpack years of failed self love and sexual validation. Hearing this news forced me have uneasy conversations about sexual history with potential partners. Ones I tried to avoid in the past thinking they would look at me crazy if I asked when was the last time they were tested. Hearing this news was life altering, but also life changing. Hearing this news is sometimes still a struggle to wrap my worth around. But, it has forced me onto the path of reclaiming self control. Every day, I remind myself that I am deserving. I am deserving of love. I am worthy. And I love myself... no matter what society says.”
Honestly, I felt like I’d let my body down. I’d always been so active and now all of a sudden, I’d gone and done something that resulted in my body “getting sick.” I was disappointed in me. And the worst part was, there was nothing I could do to get rid of it. I would look in the mirror and just cry because I’d decided that having herpes meant I didn’t know who I was anymore. It meant I wasn’t healthy. It meant there were things that I couldn’t do.
I was 27 years old and was just going through the motions - I was surviving not thriving. At a certain point I just got fed-up with believing something that I wasn’t sure I truly believed. So I started telling everyone - literally everyone - friends, family, a stranger on the train, a group of people at a conference, my social media networks - and the act of allowing myself - all the parts of me - to be seen, created a freedom where self-acceptance thrived.
I am herpes positive, and I am healthy. I am sexy and strong and sensitive and badass and emotional and beautiful. Herpes helped me see this - I’m grateful for the awakening.
“The HIV diagnosis came as a complete shock to me. As someone who was regularly tested, I couldn’t believe that I was infected. Even though I knew that science was on my side and the diagnosis was not a death sentence, I still went through a serious phase of shock. My body felt dirty. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. It was awful. It was the worst feeling. I remember thinking to myself that I deserved what I got. That it as my fault. As time went on, the shock settled. Today there is still an ebb and flow, but there are some days I literally have to remind myself that I am undetectable. I am as healthy as ever. My body is still a temple, like it always has been –– but now, I am taking much better care of that temple, and I am careful about the precious things that live inside of it. In a way, it could feel almost sad that it took something like the HIV diagnosis to really cherish the body God gave me. But it’s not sad –– in fact, it saved my life.“
“I have HSV 1 - I acquired this from my parents, either from sharing drinking glasses, or kissing mouths, much like many of us who get “cold sores”. My first memorable cold sore, aka herpes outbreak was on my mouth when I was in elementary school. I was so embarrassed about the little pink crusty bump on my bottom lower lip, that I tried to cover it with my hand as if I was nibbling my fingernails all day - but the crossing guard noticed my odd hand placement before I even made it in the door; “Whatcha thinkin’ about, little lady?” There’s no way to completely hide the reality that bodies experience the world in many ways, not all of them always feeling attractive and desirable.
I remembering learning that chicken pox and herpes were related - why is it “normal” for kids to go through a chicken pox illness, but we shame the shit out of adults who have their first outbreak of herpes? I take Lysine supplements to avoid oral outbreaks, and I do not kiss, share makeup, drinking glasses, or utensils with folks when I have a cold sore. It’s easy as pie, and I love telling people, “I have oral herpes and get cold sores, are you okay with sharing, or do you get them too?” It was in this way that I met a recent lover; she joked “We both have HSV so we can make out.” My ears perked up, because people ARE learning how to talk about these things and find pleasure with peers. And that makes me feel way better in my body. “
“I didn’t recognize who I saw when I looked in the mirror. I slowly descended into a salt bath on the night of my diagnosis, trying to find some way to ease the physical pain—unaware that the now-internalized stigma of genital herpes would be the pain that would be the most challenging to alleviate.
Questions like, “Who will love me? Why me?! and How did this happen to me?” orchestrated a monotonous chorus in my mind. One that didn’t fade until nearly six months after my diagnosis. I remember stepping onto my yoga mat for the first time and crying in my down dog. The same questions flooded my mind.
I felt dissociated from myself and my body. I was uncomfortable with touch. I didn’t want to have sex. I didn’t want to have sex with myself. And since I couldn’t confront myself with my diagnosis, or the questions that arose because of it, I ran. I stopped going to work. I stopped going to the gym. I stopped participating in the things that made me happiest and most fulfilled in favor of forgetting the woman I used to be, and the woman that I hoped to become.”
“At 18, sat waiting to speak to a specialist i could not even begin to imagine telling her that I had herpes. Once I had explained my concerns over my recent diagnosis to her, she looked me square in the eyes and told me my sex life simply would not be the same anymore. I couldn’t begin to understand what she was telling me. That my skin was now my most unattractive quality, the thing that surrounded every inch of me was untouchable.
All I wanted was to be touched. I just wanted to be held. But even the lack of knowledge from my mother left me explaining that towels were not plagued and that I did not need a private bathroom. And I started to hate body in such an intense way I made myself untouchable.
Now I have learned my skin is like a shield and the thing it keeps off me are those who are unwilling to learn. And I simply do not want to be intimately touched by those unwilling to learn how to touch me and love me in the skin that I am in.”
"When I was 16, I was raped. I didn’t know it then, didn’t have the words for it then, but my body has always known. The way it told me back then was by disconnecting, becoming this far away thing, right in the middle of a time where it was supposed to be coming into itself. I was in the bathtub four or five months after the rape, and as I reached down to touch myself, I found something there. I recoiled. Nothing should be growing on my vagina, that could only happen if you weren’t being careful, and I was only sixteen. This was too soon, this couldn’t be real, I hadn’t been loved yet and if this thing growing was what I thought it was, then no one could ever love me. When I told my mom she took me to the gynecologist, and I wish I could say that it was warm and welcoming, but it was sterile and shaming. I was diagnosed with HPV and had to have the growth on my vagina frozen off by a male doctor who was the Dad of a kid I went to school with. No one told me HPV was normal, no one told me that I would be okay, and no one told me it wasn’t my fault. No would tell me it wasn’t my fault for another decade. The first time I told a partner I had HPV was two years into our relationship, and it came out as an accident. By that time I’d been told my body had healed itself enough for the disease to be dormant, and I didn’t have to worry about passing it on to sexual partners. When I told him, I froze, my sixteen year old self suddenly standing there in front of him. He told me he was so sorry, how scared I must have been, and that he wished that he had been there with him. It was one of the most healing moments I have ever had in my entire life. I can’t believe I thought no one would ever love me. I can’t believe I blamed myself. A couple of years ago I told a warm, female doctor at the gyno that I had HPV and she snorted. “You and everybody else.” I wish, more than anything, I could go back and time and tell my younger self all of this. Today I am so fucking proud of my body and its journey. It is only in seeing your ask for these submissions that I have firmly said to myself that it wasn’t just that I got HPV at sixteen, it was because someone raped me. And while that is devastating information, it is also powerful, because it is my bold truth. It is not my fault, it is no one’s fault, and I am worthy of love. I am worthy of loving my body.”
“Being a plus sized woman, I have already struggled with loving myself. When I found out I had contracted HSV2 (genital herpes) I felt as I was even more worthless. Just as I was becoming confident in my own skin I found out. My first thought was “Great, now I’m fat and now I have herpes.” I felt worthless. I went back into the cycle of staring into the mirror picking myself apart. How could somebody loved me if I was damaged? Why would anybody want me? I’ve now learned to love myself and not to stigmatize myself. I may be flawed but I am still worthy of a great life. This diagnoses has changed my life. I call it a blessing in disguise because I have learned how to love myself and respect myself no matter what. I am not herpes. I am Jesse.”
“I was diagnosed with HSV2 when I was 20 years old. I have to be honest and admit that my physical appearance has always been like a security blanket for me. If I had nothing, I had beauty. That's just how it had always felt for me. When I received my diagnosis, I felt my identity being ripped away from me. I felt I had no value left. I remember that night I put on a ton of makeup and did my hair.. all just to look in my bathroom mirror and not recognize myself anymore. I had always found my personal value in my sexuality and my overall physical appearance, and now, what did I have left? I have spent the last 4 years learning to love myself for all of the other great qualities I possess, and I have also slowly learned that my beauty and my sexuality are still valid and mine to own! Herpes is one of the reasons I know my value beyond the surface, and I hope I can help others see the silver lining.“
“I always had a complicated relationship with my body, but after my genital herpes diagnosis, this relationship became even more complex. The diagnosis left me feeling “dirty,” ashamed, and undesirable. The obsessive/compulsive anxiety I felt from repeatedly checking my genitals for any visible outbreak was exhausting. I felt unsafe in my body. I felt unsafe to myself and to others. I felt like my body was a land mine, and I never knew when it would go off. Because of the way I contracted herpes (through an ex who assaulted me and cheated on me), there is immense trauma living in my body. Each time I get an outbreak (one, pimple-looking thing), I'm confronted with his ghost. I'm confronted with the fact that he lives inside of me and will forever. Almost 5 years later, and it's still somewhat painful. It’s the stigma of herpes that’s the worst. Since my diagnosis, I have worked on respecting my body, and demanding others respect it as well. I may not love my body, but I appreciate all that it does for me. It has gotten better… But I’m still trying to navigate how to live in a body haunted by trauma, stigma, and men.“
“My diagnosis has very much challenged my relationship with my body. Mostly, I've found it hard to eliminate the nagging feeling that no matter how hard I advocate for others, no matter how often I share varied images of myself (fit, relaxed, sexy), I will always be viewed as gross or icky. It's silly, because instinctively, I know better, but culture degrades women for the simplest, most mundane, and irrelevant of things - so, knowing I have something that is viewed, across cultures and platforms as a sign of my undesirability means that convincing myself I am beautiful, sexy, and desirable takes a continuous, daily, unrelenting act of defiance.”
“I got diagnosed for genital HSV when I was 16, and for around 7 years I kept it as a dirty, shameful secret. I felt so uncomfortable with myself, tainted, like the whole world would know. I felt like it was a cruel joke that I would get something incurable from the first person I was sexually active with. I thought no one would ever want me. Last year I was finally honest about it with myself and those close to me. Before that I wasn’t even able to think about it, I would repress the thought immediately. Opening up about it helped me do a lot of emotional healing, but I know I still have a lot of shame around it; I currently have an outbreak and I was getting upset, a little bit because it hurt but mostly because I still felt like the whole world would know and deem me unworthy. I am in the process of truly knowing that it doesn’t change anything about who I am, nor does it change anything about how I experience all the magic in the world; agreeing with myself again and again: I am letting go of my shame.“
“I was twenty three years old. I thought I was grown. I mean I was grown age wise but mindwise, not so much. But still, I did what any female in her early twenties did. I lived my life. While living my life I met a man that I thought I loved later on. Later on BUT before I woke up with three tiny white bumps inside my vagina. Later that day, I was diagnosed with HSV2, I was flabbergasted.
I couldn't look at myself in the mirror for a few days, I felt disgusting. I would take a mirror and look at my vagina and tell myself that nobody will ever like me again because of this virus. I shunned myself for a few months. It wasn't until I’d been exposed by people I thought were my friends that I stood tall in my diagnoses.
January 2018, I did a live chat with COLLEGEDAZEMEDIA on Instagram. That was the day i took my life back, I snatched it back. I looked at myself for the first time in a long time and told myself I loved me. My body that I once referred to as burnt out and broken is now the most beautiful creation to me. I never thought it would take coming out publicly to gain my confidence back.”
“Getting genital herpes changed my identity, and everything I thought of myself. I was a crazy party girl and in an abusive relationship at the time and it woke me up. I was stressed out trying to make him happy and I had constant outbreaks until I left him, until I started to care for myself. I quit drinking and I started investing in myself, strangely, herpes helped my self confidence. It prompted manage my life better, when my immune system was down I would (and still do, but rarely) get outbreaks. It prompted me to have actual conversations about sex, and demanded I behave with rigorous honesty and integrity in my future relationships. I have met people who thought I was worth the risk and some who have not, and that's okay. Disclosing is still one of the scarier things, and I have always hated being vulnerable but there's something really incredible about feeling that naked and free in front of someone. It has made my relationships deepen, sharing a secret which bares a fair amount of shame and trusting that it won't be weaponized. It took me a long time to accept it but the lessons I learned in love and vulnerability would have otherwise taken me decades.“
“I’ve had oral herpes for as long as I can remember, but two years ago my outbreaks worsened significantly; I went from getting three or four outbreaks a year to at least one or two a month. I have always felt alienated during cold sore outbreaks, but their constant recurrence has made my own body feel alien to me. I struggle with the physical and emotional distance during outbreaks, the absence of touch, and the guilt/fear about accidentally giving my herpes to someone else. During an outbreak, I feel dirty, contaminated, distant, and hopeless; every time a new cold sore appears immediately after an old one, I tend to take it out on my own body through anger, disgust, and even self-harm. I started taking antivirals, but found that the initial doses weren’t large or strong enough; I had to jump through hoop after hoop just to increase my dosage. Finding the right dosage has helped a lot because, although I still experience cold sore outbreaks, at least now I have the time to recuperate mentally in between them. Having access to these drugs, though, is a constant struggle with my insurance provider and pharmacy.“
“When I got the herpes diagnostic, I felt like my body was giving up on me. The worst part was that I felt like I could not love it anymore. I felt like my personality was all I had left. I thought my body would not be attractive to anyone who would learn about my diagnostic. So, I focus on my academic performances. I obsessed about my grades and wanted to be a perfect student. A year pass before I got intimate with anyone. When it finally happened, I told my partner and he was so relaxed about it that I gain confidence back. I let myself feel beautiful. The virus became just a part of me. Like my brown hair or my long legs. What is inside matter the most, but it sure feel good when you feel beautiful inside and out. Now, I learned to love and accept herpes. I see it as one of my strength. It makes my body special and powerful.“
“Having genital herpes brought up conflicting emotions in me. On the one hand I felt damaged and unclean and on the other I felt it was a nice wake up call to really nurture not only my body but my soul in the way it needed. Strangely, I felt relieved and unconditionally loving of myself . I wanted more soul driven interactions and admitting to this perceived 'flaw' opened that door. I felt an urgency to prioritize my health on a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual level. I had always looked after myself to an extent but I did like to party and I had a lifestyle that was in some ways pretty fast with commitments that left me stressed. My body wanted me to slow down and this made me both comfortable and uncomfortable with the diagnosis. Having herpes made me appreciate energy more and as I slowed down I felt connected to how amazing the body is and how it can heal itself. I am comfortable with the diagnosis, I am uncomfortable with the stigma and the way people can easily fall into the trap of judging someone with herpes without a proper awareness of who that individual is.”
"I can smile at my body now..knowing what I know. Knowing that it has survived shame, stigma, and self-hatred. This body carried me through my darkest, loneliest days as I sorted through the rubble that my diagnosis left my life in. But it was there that I found the beauty in it all. The ability to love my body for its strength, it’s perseverance, and it’s innate power to provide me pleasure even through pain. My body and I can now look back and laugh about our lack of knowledge back then - how clueless we were to think that our life was over. Oh no, it was just beginning. Herpes didn’t ruin me. It gave me a damn good reason to connect with my body and my sexuality; and to finally allow myself the love I have always deserved."
“In some crazy, radical way, my AIDS diagnosis was the biggest gift I’ve ever received. Until that happened, being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS was my biggest fear in. However, that fear wasn’t enough to ensure I cherished my body and health. A greater motivator was at work. I was a chronic, life-long victim and my self-esteem was abysmal.
In early childhood, I experienced a lot of trauma and instability. I quickly learned to embody the role of ‘victim’ which, ironically, helped me survive. As I got older, being a victim became a crutch that ultimately held me back. In 2012, with my AIDS diagnosis, I had materialized what for so long I had embodied. I truly became the victim. An insidious, unforgiving virus took hold in my body and laid waste to my immune system…pushing me to life’s edge.
It shook me to the core and I realized what I did to myself over a lifetime. It inspired in me the greatest change I’ve ever experienced. Today I’m the opposite of a victim.Before my diagnosis I had never picked up a barbell in my life. Now I’m a pro competitive natural physique bodybuilder and a fitness model. “
“When I received my diagnosis I was heart broken. I felt like everything I thought my life would be was changed and I started to think of myself as untouchable. In the year before I contracted herpes I became much more in touch with my body and my sexuality. I felt more open and comfortable with myself, but when I got herpes all of that changed. I felt ashamed of my sexuality and I felt I was being punished for it. I always thought of myself as a good girl and I started thinking of myself as dirty. As time as passed since my diagnosis I have started to feel more comfortable in my own skin again. I still deal with shame and battle with my own thoughts of being untouchable, but I’m starting to love my body again. I have become physically and mentally stronger since my diagnosis. I keep reminding myself that herpes is just a skin condition and it says nothing about my character. Getting past the stigma has been more of a challenge than I could have imagined but I’m starting to take back my sexuality and pride in my body.“
“I’m a 22 year old woman in regional Australia. At 20 years old, I was diagnosed with HPV in my cervix, as well as abnormal pre-cancerous cells.
At times, I felt wholly betrayed by my body. I was fully vaccinated against the virus, I had never had casual unprotected sex, I had always gotten my sexual health checks — I did everything ‘right’. After the diagnosis, I felt dirty, unhealthy. I would say ‘it’s like I’m rotting from the inside.’ I felt alone and ashamed, guilty that I had ‘done’ this to myself. I wanted it gone.
I still feel this way occasionally. It can be hard not to be affected by the stigma, to not feel wrong.
But I consider myself lucky.
Lucky to know that I have this virus that I have. Lucky to have found out sooner rather than later. Lucky to be able to look after my body (considering around 80% of people have HPV, but almost none know they do).
But most of all, lucky that I’m also a medical laboratory scientist.
I’ve turned my self-loathing into a fiery determination to make positive changes. I’m in graduate school, looking into developing better ways of detecting HPV. I’m unapologetically upfront about STIs, speaking about them factually, honestly and with an aim to educate. I’m driven and I’m not about to stop. I love my body for being strong, resilient and powerful. I accept the reality for what it is. I accept myself as I am.“
“I was raped, as a Virgin, at 19 and contracted herpes. My first experience with sex was forced on me and left me with an incurable virus. I didn't have sex for years after that because it terrified me. In my twenties I realized that sex with queer people made me nervous (because sex was still new) but not scared. My queer lovers have taught me how to communicate about herpes and historically been the most graceful in hearing it. Still, I've been shamed for it a lot. I've been told I'm a health risk (as if cold sores are life threatening). I realized recently that I was shamed into silence and I didn't want shame and fear to prevent me from doing what I can to smash the stigma around herpes. It's not dirty. It's not something I got by being careless or "risky". Aside from the stigma, it has very little impact on my life at all. To my knowledge, I've never even passed it to any of my fifty+ partners.“