As 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!