Even though it’s a good bet that some of your best friends, neighbors and family members have herpes (overall prevalence by the time people reach their forties is 26%) it’s still a huge taboo.
It certainly was for Jenelle Marie, diagnosed with herpes 14 years ago and later, with a slew of other sexually transmitted diseases. In a new post on Our Bodies Our Blog, she describes the intense psychological stress of living with an STD and how, over time, as she learned the facts about her own condition, she overcame much of the social stigma. It wasn’t easy.
Here’s Marie on her initial diagnosis by a not-so-sympathetic doctor:
At 16, when our family doctor peered at me with a lazy eye, through thick glasses, and accompanied by a partially missing ear to tell me my genital herpes outbreak was the worst case he’d ever seen, I was devastated. Embarrassment coursed through me as he handed me a prescription and sent my mother and me on our way – sans brochures, additional information, and references to resources, support groups or even a mention of the vast number of people living with an STI everywhere. I was a pariah – a leper – even the doctor was disgusted by my condition.
For years, I accepted my fate and considered myself as being punished for having been sexually active before marriage. As a high-schooler, I was called a slut or a whore and “friends” of mine forewarned men who took interest in me that I would merely infect them, hurt them, and they should steer clear entirely. I actually maintained some of those friendships for a period of time, not knowing otherwise about STIs and those who contract them, thinking myself deserving of such treatment.
Now, she’s an activist, Continue reading