Allow me to introduce myself:
I am your mother; father, brother, sister, best friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, neighbor, waitress, classmate, coach, co-worker, possibly even your physician. I am of many faces and varied ages. I possess higher education or little education at all. I am found in all classes, races and religions of society. To look at me, you would never imagine that I hold a secret, that in a particular situation and with the slightest sin of omission, I could affect your life in such a way that would alter life as you know it.
What could this secret possibly be? It is Genital Herpes!
As a person with genital herpes, I can often live in an ongoing fear of telling you of my condition. I suffer this fear as the result of your possible ignorance. How is it that one person should live in the fear of another person’s lack of knowledge? It’s true! Nearly 50 million new cases diagnosed each year will walk this same dreadful walk. The voices of conscience continually asking “will this person run from me?” “Will this person mock me?” So many times, I will draw the conclusion that the unknown response is the best and I will make my exit from your life. Never knowing if you might have been asking yourself those same questions. The statistics would indicate it is likely that you could, but then again, the risk and fear prevent me from speaking openly with you.
Over time, I have been placed in situations where I was made to feel sub-human. Listening to jokes, ridicule and hurtful comments by all those who suffer from ignorance, up to and including talk show hosts that are admired by millions across the U.S. I have been a person who has had the quality of life snatched right out from under my feet, simply because I acted on human nature and had a sexual relationship with another person who’s life was affected by genital herpes.
What can you do as a person that I may encounter? Become aware! Genital herpes can be treated. With proper knowledge and consideration for you, I have the ability to protect you. Though I cannot completely eliminate your risk, I can minimize it tremendously.
Understand that just because I have genital herpes, this does not mean I am infectious 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It simply means I may become contagious a few times per year. Know that with proper care of my body, time can further reduce the frequency of when I might pass along this virus. If I am a person with genital herpes and have taken the time to get to know my body and how this virus reacts in it’s active state, I can recognize early symptoms that may further reduce my risk to you.
You have looked at people many times over your life that bore the symbol of herpes in the form of a cold sore. Were you quick to stand in judgment of them? Did you assume they had a severe cold or flu and perhaps that cold sore was the lingering aftermath of that battle? You assumed wrong! That cold sore is herpes and has little to do with a cold or flu. In fact, cold sores are becoming the most common cause of genital herpes cases diagnosed in the U.S. month after month.
As a person living with genital herpes, I ask you to learn more about me. Place me in a position that I may feel more at ease speaking openly with you. Let me see that a disclosure of such a personal nature will not be comparable to a scene from some old Friday night horror flick in which you would run screaming in fear. If you would be open to my confiding in you, you may just learn that I am the most honest and trustworthy person that you could encounter.
The majority of us living with genital herpes have found ourselves in this situation by no choice of our own, having been the victim of deception, cheating spouses or significant others. Not only do we carry the burden of a former deception, we have a lingering reminder of that breech of trust thrust upon us by another. Certainly, in many cases genital herpes is a form of baggage from a relationship past, but in the face of an understanding person, it does not have to be emotional baggage.
Genital herpes can be a secret borne by anyone, regardless of gender, status, or background. The next person that you encounter is potentially one of us. It is everyone’s responsibility to understand the pervasive nature of this condition, and to develop a working knowledge of how it influences those around us.