Herpes Stigma: How Hard It Is for Patients to Deal With Society


Author: SK

The world is so much indulged in the details and research of the deadly COVID that they don’t caution about other transmissible diseases. 

People should know that diseases like herpes are still alive, and they spread. 

Evidence of Herpes Spread (H2)

Erica Spera, a New York Comedian, got genital herpes after she had sex after six months with a new partner. However, she thought she was on the safe side because her new partner told her that he never had an STI (sexually transmitted infection). Unfortunately, she noticed several bumps on her private part, which were increasing rapidly. Therefore, she decided to visit a doctor. Consequently, her doctor told her that she has genital herpes. 

Erica’s story shows that herpes is still a widespread disease. Moreover, according to CDC, around one out of six individuals contract genital herpes between ages 14-50. After Erica’s diagnosis, she lost her self-confidence and started to workout. She wanted to get in the best shape because she thought that she wouldn’t get a partner. Later, her partner’s diagnosis was also positive for HSV-1, which can cause genital herpes. However, Erica had to date her partner for some time because she was facing rejections from new men. Conclusively, this is the direct result of social disgrace that most herpes positive individuals face. 

COVID Stigma in the Society (H2)

Herpes individual’s situation in Society reflects a similar social issue with COVID individuals. Some medical experts point out that there is hostility against COVID patients. Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a women’s health expert, says that there are asymptomatic COVID patients and can potentially spread the virus. Moreover, she further says that these patients are irresponsible because they can potentially spread it. However, Dr. Jessica also believes that the medical community could have public campaigns to let people know about the realities of COVID.

Many COVID patients have reported that there being blamed for the disease. Moreover, some individuals were experiencing shame and isolation. An individual reported that he experienced victim-blaming twice: once upon the initial infection and then on re-infection. Conclusively, the trend of victim-blaming is becoming very disturbing for patients. Moreover, medical experts conclude that instead of blaming patients, we should show empathy to them. 

Herpes Stigmatization (H2)

Herpes individuals are dealing with herpes stigmatization for decades. In a 1982 article, the disease had a label of ‘Today Scarlet Letter.’ However, there have been attempts to reduce this Society’s view. A 2014 article by The Atlantic had a label of overblown. Moreover, articles started to label it as a harmless skin disease recently. Vice, a publication, exposed a medicine company, pharma, using the 1970 stigma of herpes to sell new medicines to treat it.

However, there is still a negative image of Herpes patients, despite the efforts to improve it. Moreover, the CDC doesn’t recommend massive screening for the disease because of the high rate of false reports. An advocate, Ella Dawson, says that there are depressing stories of Herpes Patients who try to self-harm themselves or even think of suicide. Moreover, Ella points out that Herpes diagnosis causes relationships to deteriorate. It can cause abusive relationships, and the partner can use the disease as an excuse to abuse. STI individuals struggle to keep up in Society, and the bad image causes them to isolate and keep their disease a secret. Consequently, it can cause distance between families who can help the patients recover.

Positive Cases of Herpes Patients (H2)

Despite the stigmatization that Herpes patients face, there are many fortunate stories of Herpes patients who develop a healthy relationship. Josh Zuege, a 36-year-old clerk living in Colorado, was diagnosed with the disease three years back. Although he had some personal issues, the diagnosis initially became so depressing that his entire hand became the victim of an eczema outbreak. However, he took a positive outlook on his life, and he had only two outbreaks in his life up till now. Also, he realized that the only impact this virus can have is on his dating life.

Fortunately, this realization helped him to move on and feel indifferent. Josh reportedly says that you have to find someone who doesn’t care about certain aspects of your life. Now, Josh lives with a woman whom he was dating for two years. He was afraid to tell her about his disease initially, but she accepted it. From then, they are building their relationship together. Also, they had unprotected sex, but there were no signs of genital herpes in Josh’s partner. 

This story doesn’t surprise me because Adrian Dale, founder of Herpes Opportunity, has created a chart. This chart shows that the rate of transmission of herpes from male to female is only 10%. Moreover, you can also reduce this rate by like condoms, medications, and tracking outbreak symptoms. 

However, some people question why this virus is so widespread, even though it is low? Dr. Shepherd answers this by saying that people are not willing to disclose the disease to their partner. They believe that it would lead to rejection because of the dishonor of Herpes in Society. According to a survey, about 28% of people with genital herpes were unwilling to disclose it to their partners. Likewise, around 58% of people responded that they would not have sex with people who have the virus. Therefore, these results show the Stigma effect on Society. 

Conclusion of the Herpes Stigma

Despite all the social intimidation that patients face, several advocates like Erica Spera are working to change the outlook. After getting back on track, Erica created a support group for Herpes patients. Later, she started a podcast, “Shooters Gotta Shoot” where she publicly discusses dating people with the virus. Many people, including Ella Dawson, praised Erica for talking openly on this issue.

The world expects a good future ahead with no pandemic, which can help discuss solutions to end these transmissible diseases. Furthermore, Dawson expects that COVID patients can relate the situation with herpes patients after the pandemic. As a result, this can help to reduce the stigma. Dawson concludes that people are attempting to have normal conversations regarding protection, risks, and diagnosis of herpes. Consequently, people will feel more comfortable talking about these issues. Nonetheless, Dawson says that despite the widespread stigma, people are working to support her cause after considering the effects of COVID. 

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