Share Your STD Story – STD Interviews

STD InterviewsAs the first interview in The STD Project’s series of STD Interviews, I think it’s only appropriate I answer my own interview questions. Even though, as the Founder, I am choosing to answer publicly, it is The STD Project’s intention to allow anyone to participate in these interviews anonymously; your privacy and comfort are our priority – we never share contact information or otherwise defining characteristics with our readers unless you’ve explicitly requested they be included.

Sooooo, if you would like to share your story in this manner – use the contact form here. Either complete the interview in advance and send me a list of your answers for posting, or let me know that you would like to participate, and we can discuss parameters or any questions you may have. You are welcome to choose which questions you are not comfortable answering, however, the nature of The STD Project is that of story-telling and being authentic and honest with one’s experiences in an effort to eradicate stigma, so, please choose your omissions carefully and based upon your unique needs.

I like to call this STD 20 (er, 13) Questions…Without further ado.

1. How old are you?

29 years young when TheSTDProject.com launched in 2012. You do the math. 😉

2. What do you do for a living?

I left my career as an Associate Project Manager for a fortune 300 company to run The STD Project – now, I am the Founder and Executive Director of TheSTDProject.com, an STD Expert for Answers.com, a Hepatitis C Expert for HepatitisC.net, and sometimes I moonlight as a freelance writer and public speaker. 

As if my plate wasn’t full enough, I am also an adjunct professor at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan (aka: the land shaped like a hand or the high five state).

3. What STD do you have/have you had?

Presently, I have genital herpes – HSV2. Actually, for years, I wasn’t sure which strain I carried – HSV1 or HSV2 – I was diagnosed by my family doctor and was never blood tested to determine specifics – to me, it makes little difference; it’s genital. (Both forms of herpes can be transferred to the genital and to the facial/mouth areas – both look and feel similarly.) However, I finally discovered which HSV strain I’m carrying via a herpes type-specific antibody blood test after I launched The STD Project.

I have also had HPV (two abnormal pap smears and one colposcopy – almost all abnormal pap smears are a result of HPV – but, in full disclosure, I’m not 100% certain HPV was the culprit, as my doctor never specified – typical of most abnormal pap smear diagnosis – statistically, it probably was), scabies and vaginitis (in the form of a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis – trichomoniasis can also be called vaginitis). 

If you’re asking yourself, “Did she just say she’s had 3 STIs?” The answer is, yes, yes, I have! Boom.

4. How long have you had or known you have an STD?

I’ve had herpes for 16 years – I was diagnosed when I was a junior in high-school at 16 years old.

A little over 6 years ago I contracted scabies.

It’s been years since I’ve had an abnormal pap smear or a vaginitis infection – not sure exactly how long.

5. Do you know how you contracted this STD?

I am still not 100% certain how I contracted herpes – aside from being sexually active – at the time, I had more than one sexual partner and was too embarrassed/distraught to advocate for myself or ask questions.

My abnormal pap smears were likely the result of an HPV infection – I was sexually active by the time both of my abnormal pap smears were diagnosed and when I had a colposcopy, so the likelihood of an HPV infection was quite high (most abnormal pap smears are the result of HPV, and more than 80% of all sexually active men and women contract at least one strain of HPV at some point in their lives). So, whatevs. I just ad HPV to the logical list.

Scabies came from my ex-husband – he was sleeping around with multiple women – it took quite a few weeks of itching and researching before we got the right kind of treatment and got rid of them – he thinks he knows the culprit…..this will be a longer, more interesting story for another day.  :-)

Vaginitis can be caused by a number of factors (I was sexually active at the time then too), so it’s hard to tell whether the vaginitis was a result of my sexual activity, an unhealthy lifestyle, a combination of both, or other factors.

6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD?

Until I launched The STD Project, most aspects of my life had not changed, actually.

Now, I have the most interesting and rewarding conversations with friends and family I’ve ever had – a direct result of sharing my experiences. Very rarely has having an STI elicited an adverse or extreme reaction or changed my relationships and daily activities.

7. Do the people who know you have an STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?

Most people have not treated me differently at all.

Others have, in turn, shared their own STD stories or have confided in me regarding other sensitive topics; this has resulted in more genuine and deeper relationships, and in general, I have been thankful for the strength to share my story.  

In contrast, a small segment of those I’ve told have done hateful things – shared my personal information without my consent, treated me as if I were trashy and intentionally hurting others, etc…. It is important to note, those people have been few and far between, were unhappy individuals and were struggling to find their own self-worth and self-confidence….a couple of which later contracted an STD and came to me to for help.

8. Are you currently under treatment for your STD? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.

Presently, I am balancing both a pro-active and a re-active regimen. Pro-actively, I take holistic and natural over-the-counter supplements to strengthen my immune system. Re-actively, I use a prescription medicine to react to herpes break-outs in hopes of shortening their duration.

I also take pro-biotics, eat yogurt, and drink kefir on occasion – all three help to maintain healthy vaginal flora and further prevent vaginitis infections.

9. Has having an STD hindered past relationships?

Having an STD has not hindered any of my previous relationships at all. I have never had a partner choose not to be with me as a result of my STD.

10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD affected your partner?

Yes; I have a significant other. My significant other has not contracted herpes. As a result, it has not really affected him, either. We were photographed for Cosmo together about living with an STI, if you’re curious about what he looks like…

Nevertheless, he is still at risk. He’s also shared his perspective about dating someone with an STD and what that risk means to him.

11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD whom you did not tell you had an STD?

Unfortunately, I must answer yes to this question.

Historically, I operated under the ‘ask for forgiveness and not permission’ theory – there have been a couple choice occasions I didn’t do either. None of this is easy to write, yet, that is precisely why I am writing it…  

This happens WAY more often than people are willing to admit. Until the stigma is alleviated and people feel comfortable talking about their sexual health openly and honestly with friends/family/partners, this will continue happening. Education, awareness, acceptance and communication are the answers to STD prevention.

It is no longer effective to simply encourage abstinence or protection. STDs need to become a common dinner table conversation and need to be talked about as often as we tell people we have any other medical affliction. Only then will people be open and honest with their potential partners while they are still potential partners, thus, allowing those partners the option to choose protection or abstinence.

12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD?

I’ve learned STDs don’t have a prejudice and are not subjective; they are not limited to certain types of people, classes, races, etc.

It’s made me a more empathetic person all-around.

13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with The STD Project?

This interview is my first step toward eradicating the stigma, promoting education and awareness, and encouraging acceptance around contracting and living with an STD.  

Through one another’s stories, we will learn, grow, and foster the communication necessary for responsible sexual health and provide other’s an opportunity for prevention.

What do you think about the admin’s interview? Have you experienced something similar or do you feel differently about having an STD? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Comments

  1. UghFinally! says

    Thank you for starting this! As a 22F with HSV-2, it’s sometimes impossible to deal with. You are amazing for posting this.

    • Jenelle Marie says

      @UghFinally – Thank you for your comment. I totally understand. It’s our mission to break through that stigma so it doesn’t have to be so hard and so lonely – your comment is a great start to the conversation that needs to happen more often – the conversation we will be having every day right here! :-) Glad to hear this was uplifting.

  2. Anonymous says

    As a 25 yr old male living with herpes since I was 21, I applaud what you are doing here and I also think open dialogue among all people will help people gain a better understanding about what stds are and what the ramifications of having one can be.

  3. longtimer says

    Male here, living with HSV2 since 1981. That’s 31 years of dealing with what seems like the world being against folks like us. And, though I have “seen it all” in the H world, actually it has gotten way better over time. This site is further evidence of that. Thanks for the efforts you are putting in here, by the way. It is a valiant cause, indeed. :)

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Yes – you most certainly have seen it all. In the summer of 1982 Time Magazine’s cover was ‘Herpes – Today’s Scarlet Letter’. Unfortunately, I think that cover and accompanying article did more harm for STD awareness than good as it further stigmatized STDs in the eyes of the general populace. Healing and change takes time; it’s nice to hear you’ve seen things continue to progress during your 31 years of living with herpes. The response The STD Project has received so far has been overwhelmingly positive – another phenomenal indication of its timeliness – with any luck this will continue. :-)

  4. Chloe says

    As a 21F who has just been diagnosed with HSV2 I have found your website extremely useful as I have basically been terrified. Reading your interview has made me feel a lot better about myself and it is comforting to see that you haven’t had any problems with partners which is something I have been really worried about. I think you are doing a brilliant job!

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Chloe – thank you.

      I’m delighted to hear this helped ease some of the inevitable terror you felt with your diagnosis – it just sucks and can make you feel so ostracized.

      Yes, I’ve also been blessed with multiple long-term relationships with men who did not care I had genital herpes….they would prefer not to get it, of course, and we took precautions for that (some did anyways), but overall, it was just a thing I lived with like any other kind of struggle or illness people deal with – it certainly never ended a relationship.

      I have heard this has ended relationships for other people; however, the trend I’ve seen with that is those relationships were new and not at all developed – the opposite person didn’t want to take the risk for something they hadn’t yet pictured being anything more than sex or a casual relationship.

      At any rate – feel free to reach out any time you’d like – I’m so happy to hear this helped :-)

  5. Anonymous says

    I got diagnosed just yesterday with herpes. I’m a 19 year old female and premed student. I am still in shock and feeling just about every emotion there is. I have only just recently become sexually active–2 partners. This site has helped calm a lot of the fears that I have been continuously running through my head since leaving the doctors office. Thank you so much for helping me realize I can still live my life.

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Pre-med, huh? What an interesting coincidence! I think, no matter where you decide to specialize, you’ll end up running into others with herpes as well – maybe your experience will help them too or at least, I’m guessing, it will alter your perception of them anyway… :)

      Yes; you can definitely continue to live your life, have relationships, be successful, etc. – I’m so glad this has helped alleviate some of that stress for you – your response makes all my effort worthwhile!

      Thank you for commenting; some days I wonder whether or not I am making a positive impact and it’s messages like these which indicate I’m doing exactly what I set out to do. You rock, chica; it will get easier….and in the meantime, don’t be afraid to reach out again if needed.

  6. Anonymous says

    I am a terrible terrible person. I’ve been with my boyfriend for a year and have not had sex with him because i dont want him to contract herpes. he thinks its because i want to wait till marriage. i just dont want him to find out and leave me and hate me. i love him with all my heart and he loves me with all his heart, im just affraid he’ll get mad and that will change. i’m so upset i cant even begin to describe. I HATE STDS. I got raped and that is why i contracted this curse. I HATE THAT MAN AND WANT TO KILL HIM.

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Hi Anonymous –

      First of all, you ARE NOT a terrible person. I totally understand why you feel that way as I felt similarly for years, however, it’s simply not true. You’ve been through a traumatic event. It’s quite understandable you are/were not sure how to move forward! Even had the herpes not been a result of rape, many people are afraid to tell others and end up making some poor choices concerning their STD – especially early-on. I’m a great example of that. My bad decisions do not make me a bad person. They are not synonymous. Repeat that to yourself over and over again until you believe it. Seriously. :) All people make poor choices at different times in their lives (some with greater consequences, of course) – it’s human nature – but none of those choices means we deserve to be treated poorly or should have to embody the persona of someone who is an awful individual. What defines a beautiful person is not that they have done everything perfectly throughout the span of their lives, it’s that they have made mistakes and learned from those mistakes only to come out on the other end as a stronger, more loving, more accepting, more etc., kind of person. The end result is what matters, dear anonymous; everyone gets there along a different path. This just happens to be part of yours.

      I’m sure what I just said feels like some sort of goofy self-help seminar crap, so let’s get to the things you can actually DO in the meantime while you are working on how you feel. :) (One will actually help the other too.) You do need to tell your fiance prior to getting married. I don’t know how to sugar coat that reality aside from telling you, if your love for one another is as mutual as you have described, this will not make a difference to him. It may alter some of your sexual encounters once you’re married, but he loves YOU for YOU – your STD is not YOU, it’s just an aspect of you and the tapestry of experiences you’re bringing to your relationship. I’m a great example of how doing the leg-work to build a strong foundation before sharing that aspect of your life can end in a very positive outcome. I’ve yet to face rejection as a result of my STD specifically. Quite honestly, I would bet a large amount of money you’ll have the same results (along with lots of tears, a little fear from your fiance, and loads of questions, of course). Have you read my post about when to tell someone you have an STD(http://www.thestdproject.com/when-do-you-have-to-tell-someone-you-have-an-std/) and how to tell someone you have an STD(http://www.thestdproject.com/how-to-tell-someone-you-have-an-std/)? Take that leap, feel free to share this website with your fiance and any of the others listed in my resources and references sections – they’re all great tools and he’ll probably want to do some of his own research too. Be impeccable with your words; share your heart, your intentions, your fear, and your love for him honestly and then let him decide how to react. As hard as it seems right now, the sense of relief you’ll feel after having told him regardless of his reaction will far outweigh anything else. Trust me, I’ve had that horrible conversation more times than anyone should probably have to. It doesn’t get a lot easier, but the relief from setting that burden down is always the same.

      In terms of the rape specifically, Pandora’s Project is a great place to check out if you haven’t already (http://www.pandys.org/crisissupport.html) – I’m not sure if you’ve sought some help in terms of dealing with the trauma you experienced or if you’re ready to seek some guidance yet. When you are, I’ve found them to be a very great resource for rape survivors. Anonymous, you ARE a survivor! You are beautiful and what happened to you was just a result of this world being filled with people who are hurting and who do horrible things to others as a result. Please know you deserve happiness, light and love, nothing else. Repeat that as well! :) Your comment here is evidence you’re working to achieve that, but I think, first, you must know you deserve it.

      Please also know, you are welcome to contact me directly or respond here with any additional questions or insights you have. And should you feel that sharing your story in a free-form post or as an STD Interview would be helpful in your healing process, you are welcome to submit and I will gladly post it for you.

      You are beautiful, anonymous. Remember that if nothing else.

  7. Riley says

    I am an English teacher to Seniors in a very small town, for their first research essay the topic we are writing about STD’s. I am having them draw from a bowl to see which STD they “get.” From there, they have to do research over it, finding out how common they really are and ways to prevent them. At first when I shared with them this assignment they laughed and joked about it, but the cold hard fact is a good number of them will contract an STD if they are not wise about it. That involves being knowledgeable, having good communication, and being open with their partner. I love this website, and this is something they are going to use as a source. I thank you for posting something so real, raw, and helpful on the internet. Best of luck in all you do.

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Hi Riley –

      This comment made my morning! Thanks so much for the encouragement!!

      Your students are welcome to use The STD Project as a resource – I also link to some additional great resources in the references and external resources sections – so, if they look hard enough here, they should find loads of great info on my site and elsewhere. And like you said, the simple statistics are now saying, 1 in 2 of them will contract an STD by the time they’re 25 years old (some curable, some not). As a senior in high school, I was a straight-A student also living with genital herpes – it’s likely a couple of them already have contracted an STD and still laughed along with their peers (I always did for fear of being ‘found-out’).

      At any rate – thanks so much; your message inspires me to carry-on.

  8. Alonzo Davis says

    Jenelle,
    I really applaud your honesty and your initiative. We need more people like you in the world. I am working on a similar project and feel quite overwhelmed. Maybe you would be willing to help? Either way, I love your response to the 12th question. Keep up the great work.

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Hi Alonzo!

      Thanks so much for the encouragement! I’m always happy to network with others working on similar projects – we can chat more through email. Thanks again; it’s always nice to hear positive responses to what I’m doing, of course! :)

  9. Kim says

    This website is such a breath of fresh air. I just wrote a 10 page apology letter to someone I slept with without disclosing to. I hope that I educated him in some way of what it was like to live with an STD, and also reiterated that when you poke fun at STDs or speak about them as though you’re above them, you could very possibly be offending those that you are talking to. STDs are a fact of life now. It could realistically become more common to have an STD than to not have one. The greater the stigma, the harder it is to talk about it, so the more people get infected. Nobody deserves to feel ashamed and alone as the result of a common health condition. I pledge to stand up for myself and for others like me who did nothing wrong but follow their human instincts in the pursuit of love and pleasure, but who were misinformed of the amount of people living with HSV/HPV and not knowing it.

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Hi Kim –

      Wow – that must have been quite the apology letter. :) Good for you for doing your best and doing what was ethical.

      Considering they’re now saying 1 in 2 sexually active people will contract an STD by the time they’re 25 (some curable, some not), you’re absolutely right – it’s becoming much much more common. It’s a wonder then that we still can’t talk about it outside of the antiquated and very stigmatized way we do, huh?

      You’ve actually hit the nail on the head here. My take is that in order to achieve truly effective STD prevention, we must first break the stigma surrounding them. The stigma is what hinders people from getting tested, talking to their partners about testing, prevention, and their overall sexual health, and as you and I have experienced, disclosing to others before putting them at risk.

      Cheers to you for sharing this, Kim; I really appreciate it and your vow to begin affecting change!

      Thanks so much for your comment; it was a breath of fresh air for me!

  10. Michelle says

    Hi Jenelle. I just discovered your site today, and I love it! I’m a 20 year old female and was told that I have HSV-2 yesterday. I’ve been searching for ways to help me deal with it, and this site has really done the job. Reading your story as well as other people’s is really inspiring. I feel better knowing that I am most definitely NOT alone. My number one concern after my diagnosis was how this would affect my future relationships. Will anyone ever want to be with me if it means running the risk of catching this disease? I’ve definitely had my doubts, but I’m pretty confident that anybody worth being with will love me and want me despite my STD. This may sound weird, but I think herpes will be a blessing in disguise for me. I think it will help me to weed out the bad boyfriends and find someone who really loves me for me. Over the past 3 years, lets just say I haven’t exactly been an angel. I developed the most casual attitude regarding sex when I started college. I look back on my behavior and feel so disgusted sometimes. I don’t think herpes was a direct result of my promiscuity, because with how common it is, it can happen to literally ANYONE. However, it certainly didn’t help that I slept around and wasn’t always strict with condom use. Now that I’ve caught the virus and have it for life, I view sex completely different. I’ve decided I need to have more respect for myself and not be so casual about sex, especially since I run the risk of infecting others. Thank you for this site and for your honesty. I agree that the stigma NEEDS to be taken away from STDs.

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Hi Michelle –

      You’re so right; you’re absolutely not alone! It just tends to feel like it, because no one talks about it – the stigma perpetuates that.

      Someone – potentially many suitors (lol, I sound like my grandmother) will be able to see beyond your diagnosis. It does, however, require some additional conversations, of course – namely, talking about risk before putting someone at risk. It’s not an easy conversation to have, but it’s definitely possible, and can have a favorable outcome with a little time and energy vested in developing the relationship up front.

      It’s interesting how an STD diagnosis tends to inspire us to take an inward look – focusing on the things we need to do for ourselves to love who we are despite what stigmatized things we’ve been told to the contrary. That’s actually not such a bad thing; we should all do more of that loving oneself before seeking love externally kind of thing, I think!

      And remember, along that inward healing and enlightenment path you’re encountering, there are upwards of 30+ STDs. Those who have one already have a higher likelihood of contracting another. It’s common for one to be worried about transmitting to others – it should be on your radar regardless – but your risk of contracting additional STDs is just important as well. This all coincides with loving who you are and making choices accordingly. Even though you have a sexually transmitted infection, you’re still a valuable, beautiful individual who deserves someone who wants to be sexually healthy together.

      Anyhow…:)

      Thanks so much for reaching out, Michelle – you’re welcome to do so as often as you need and as questions come up. You’re not at all alone, and you don’t have to go through this self-discovery without support. :)

  11. Megan says

    Today I received results back from my blood and culture test indicating that I am indeed HSV-2 positive. Upon receiving this call in the middle of my work day, I had to put on a happy face and grin and bear it. Thankfully, I am an information freak and have already researched this affliction while awaiting results and before event being tested, so I knew my world was not at an end, nor my sex life.

    It has been incredibly comforting to finally find a forum that puts a face to a real-life story– you have helped to humanize this and make it relatable for me, rather than reading constant regurgitated Web MD statistics. It is also refreshing to read your full disclosure as to what you have experienced, as I have dealt with literally the exact same list of issues: one abnormal pap & colopscopy (colopscopy came back negative for HPV but I need 6 month checkups), scabies (I had no idea that was an STD), bouts of vaginitis like most women, and now HSV-2. I consider myself to be a generally healthy person and started to think I was cursed or simply had the worst luck (although some, if not all, could’ve been prevented with abstinence — albeit not my preferred protection method) — I am so relieved to know I’m not alone.

    My biggest struggle has been that I have always respected myself, been selective with my partners, and have been with the least amount of partners when compared to what most of my fellow lady friends have disclosed— I was happy about my “number.” I have now realized this does not matter at all when STD’s come into play. They do not pick and choose in the manner that I do. One alcohol-induced moment of impulse can change all of that. I have also learned that I cannot compare myself to others and their sex lives– this has given me an opportunity to focus on myself, my health, and do what is right for ME. Inevitably, this will help us find a partner that is going to accept us for ALL of parts in which we are comprised… and that’s quality at it’s finest.

    Thank you for reducing the stigma. Had I not researched this, I would be beating myself up by now. However, knowing there is a huge supportive community of people who are just like me will help me to face “the talk” (the hardest part of this condition) head-on with factual information and courage.

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Hi Megan –

      You’re so very welcome.

      Thanks so much for sharing your story and reaching out to let me know this was helpful! It’s messages like your own that keep me working hard, and it makes all of my time and effort worth it. So, thank YOU, and welcome to the silent majority. 😉

  12. malika says

    I’m a 36 year old female, I just found out yesterday I have hsv2..your site is really helpful, i really have a lot of bad feelings, mixed emotions, i just don’t know what to do.I was completely true to my boyfriend of 10 years. I’ve never stepped outside of the relationship..this a××hole is blaming me for this”..he tells me I was to consumed with my life ( my children & school ) I totally neglected him… so he sleep around with other women” I just don’t know how or what to do…. My main concern is moving on finding someone who will love me unconditionally…

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Hi malika –

      Thanks for reaching out. Rest assured, your boyfriend of 10 years is definitely not the only one who will ever love you unconditionally. It sounds like he hasn’t actually loved you unconditionally anyhow, but that’s just my quick opinion. While your new diagnosis will certainly change how you approach relationships a bit – especially conversations about sex – it does not have to limit your options. My advice is to start here with our post STD? What Now? and then feel free to return, and reach out whenever you need.

      Thanks for letting us know we’ve helped, and remember, you are always welcome here.

  13. Cars says

    I just received my official HSV diagnosis yesterday (28F) and am slowly coming to terms with it. I took a blood-test many years ago (right around when I got my first abnormal papsmear and was diagnosed with HPV) and the doctor said I “could” have herpes, but itʻs hard to say without a breakout. I wish the doctor was more clear at the time, because it seems like I probably did have it and only now am having my first outbreak. Sigh. The culture didnʻt specify which type (1 or 2) and my doctor said it doesnʻt really matter, but I still think Iʻm going to get a blood test for the peace/piece of mind. I find that the better educated I am about my virus, the more accepting I can be about it, and the better I can educate my future partner(s) and others as well.

    When I first suspected a breakout a few days ago I scoured the internet for information and articles — read a ton of message boards and blogs and just recently stumbled upon your own, and boy am I glad that I did! Your writing is informative and backed up with not only personal experience, but also hard-facts and research, so itʻs easy to feel both supported and also empowered. :) Iʻve actually taken the diagnosis much better than I thought I would (way better than I took my HPV diagnosis) because in a weird way, itʻs forcing me to become more confident an accepting of me as a whole person, and not just a part.

    The hardest part though, has to be hands-down the stigma. The breakout itself isnʻt really bad at all (no blisters or lesions — just a red splotched, chafed area) — Iʻve had worse zits on my face! lol, But just knowing how others perceive it is whatʻs most difficult to overcome. However, you never quite know what itʻs like until you walk in anotherʻs shoes — and I consider this an opportunity to educate others that herpes does not discriminate (hell, I even taught a course on “high risk sexual behaviors” in college *shakes head*) and that ultimately we all need to be less afraid to talk about sex and its possible consequences. I have an adult female friend whoʻs too afraid to buy condoms from the store so she continues to have unprotected sex… showing that the stigma of “promiscuity” and sex in general is a huge reason why STIs are still around and able to prevail. :( You are absolutely right that education and awareness is so important — your answer to #13 just hit the nail right on the head. I also have 2 other good girlfriends with the herpes diagnosis, going to show it is much more common than we think.

    I just wanted to quickly comment too, that if you were diagnosed with HPV years ago then technically you still do have it — similar to HSV once you have it, you can never get rid of it (even if your paps are normal) although it can lay dormant for years, even decades. Iʻve been struggling with abnormal paps and HPV for going on 6 years now (4 colposcopies & 1 LEEP procedure) and Iʻm hoping that eventually things will get better. Otherwise, all I can really do it keep monitoring, eat healthy and keep my immune system strong. :)

    Keep up the great work! I know others will read this when they feel isolated and alone — and itʻs nice to know that there are others out there who care and support them. :) I was curious what supplements you take to strengthen your immune system?

    Thank you for doing what you do, and again, keep up the GREAT work. Happy holidays! :)

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Hi Cars –

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful message!

      In so far as the HPV is concerned, though, what you wrote is not quite accurate, so I want to make sure to provide some links and explain a bit more in-depth for our readers. Whether or not HPV goes away on its own depends upon the individual and their immune system as well as the strain of infection – both the low-risk genital warts-causing and the high-risk cancer-causing strains can go away on their own (typically, within 2 years), but they can also stay in a person’s system for years and years. That’s one of the reasons some doctors will tell patients that it ‘never really goes away on its own’ – people can have no visible signs or symptoms (warts or abnormal cell changes), and they can still be carrying (and transmitting) the virus. They also didn’t always know that it can and usually does go away eventually – years ago, they thought one carried the virus forever, so some of the older doctors still maintain that school of thought. This link from the CDC states what I said more eloquently – the National Cervical Cancer Coalition says the same thing.

      That said, they still can’t test to see if you have HPV outside of checking for abnormal cells via a Pap smear and then testing specific groups of cells themselves with an HPV test (there’s no test you can take that will say if you have HPV somewhere in your body – just if the cells they are testing contain the virus – this is also why there’s not a test for men)… Anyway, all of this is why some nurses and some practitioners will tell a patient that they will have it forever (despite 80%+ of cases being cleared naturally).

      My particular uncertainty about whether I’ve had HPV is because I had an abnormal papsmear (most are caused by HPV), a colposcopy with no additional issues or diagnosis, and 6-month pap smears for a year or two thereafter. I was never ‘officially’ diagnosed with HPV (most women aren’t, because the cells never progress further, and they’re not told that their abnormal Pap is likely due to HPV), and unless someone knows to ask, they go about their merry way thinking they’ve never had an STD, when, odds are, they probably have (by the age of 50, 80% of all women will have had, at some point in their lives, an HPV infection).

      It’s all rather confusing (and frustrating), and I can understand why, even after dealing with it for 6 years, the whole thing could bog you down – I would be a bit discouraged as well, but, I guess you’re right: there’s not a whole lot more you can do aside from being as healthy as possible.

      For me, I take L-Lysine, and I’ve found that it’s really helped reduce HSV outbreaks, and I also exercise regularly and eat quite healthy (I didn’t always) – I bought a Nutri-Bullet last year: I love it (I promise, I’m not getting endorsed to say that). I also take an Omega-3 supplement and a Hair/Skin/Nails pill for women (mostly, because it makes my hair and nails grow fast – it hasn’t really helped anything else). :)

      Interestingly, with the HSV, it might actually be worth finding out which strain you have. What strain you have and what strain your partner (past, present, future) does or doesn’t have could alter transmission risk, and it might speak to why you’re outbreaks are rather mild (or you’ve just got a robust immune system). Even so, for years, I didn’t know which strain I had, and so many people don’t. I wasn’t as informed as I am now, albeit, but, still, I don’t know that it’s a HUGE deal. Emotionally, it doesn’t make much of a difference, however, pathophysiologically, it can have an impact.

      The stigma is the biggest hurdle, that’s for sure. I totally agree with your sentiments there. The longer I run this website, the more I am realizing there are very few people I know who haven’t contracted an STD/STI at some point in their lives – whether they’re long-term ones or short-term… Everyone seems to have a story, and, frankly, that knowledge is enough to make my want to scream just a little some days, because I know how much everyone has suffered in silence. It’s maddening. It’s as much normalizing and relieving as it is maddening!

      Anyhow, I really appreciate your comments and your encouragement. It can be a challenge sometimes, and knowing someone out there appreciates what I’m doing and is willing to take the time to comment so thoughtfully is encouraging. Cheers to you and a Happy Holidays as well. :)

  14. Anonymous says

    Hello,

    I just received my diagnosis this morning. I can’t begin to explain how scared, upset, distraught, and confused I am. I’ve been with my boyfriend for over a year, and neither of us have had no other sexual partners during our relationship, so you can imagine our reaction (especially mine) when we found out the situation. I sit here and can’t help but think about my future as a person, as his partner, as a woman, as anything in general. I don’t rightly know how to handle this and don’t know where to begin. Before we even met I received testing for not just herpes but other STDs and my results came back negative, and he had never had signs or symptoms himself. So I don’t know how we got here…at all. It was either dormant in mine, or his, or both of our systems for years and now here we are. My doctor seemed certain that this is what I have, but she is sending out for tests regardless to be sure – she says it COULD be something else, but won’t say for sure until the results come back.

    I do feel, at this moment, dirty and contaminated. I don’t know how me and my boyfriend will pick up from here. I have to say he is incredibly supportive of all of this and I wish I had his calm demeanor. I want to be able to continue a regular lifestyle for myself and for us but I don’t know how. It’s not like I’ve ever been here before (and I have to be honest, I have tears pouring out of my eyes as I type this). He says that we can deal with it and go from there, but I just don’t know how we can go from here, at least sexually anyways. I’m afraid of him contracting anything if he hasn’t already, or of him being afraid to ever touch me again because of his probable fear. I know it’s all things we will talk about and discuss but this is just what’s going through my mind at this moment.

    Since finding out this morning, I’ve read up a little about how to keep outbreaks at bay and all that by diet changes, exercise, lowering stress levels, etc. I’ve always been a terrible eater (however not overweight or anything), hardly EVER exercise, and am a stress freak because I constantly analyze and over think everything. Now knowing that my life in general can trigger outbreaks more frequently, I want to do anything and everything to keep my chances of an outbreak as low as possible. It’s not going to be easy, but I have to consider all of my options and the people I love as well.

    I want to thank you for putting this website up and for sharing with the rest of us your experiences. It’s not easy for me so far, but I hope it gets easier for me like it did for you.

  15. sammy says

    I’ve had herpes for 3 years and basically handle it on my own with oral medications and healthy diet and I just found this website. I was so ashamed. Thank you so much for this site :) it made my day && maybe the rest of my life.

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Hi sammy –

      You’re so welcome – I’m so happy to read that we’ve been able to help!