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03-Jun-2020 12:48

This did nothing to lessen the internalized shame I felt. How was I possibly going to be able to do my job if I had an STD? But here’s the thing – I did everything I told my clients to do to prevent STDs.

And like one-in-five sexually active people, I contracted genital herpes.

I now work full time as a director at the National Coalition of STD Directors. I have counseled friends when they’ve come to me with news of their herpes diagnosis.

I have sat with patients after a herpes diagnosis, giving them the pep talk I would end up wishing I had received.

In the years that followed, I got so bold as to include my status in my online dating profile.

I had men and women message me just to say, “Thank you for being honest,” or, “It’s so awesome to see you standing up to the stigma of having an STD,” or even, “I have herpes, too!

I did not, however, anticipate how much stigma I would experience when I was diagnosed.

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By the time I was diagnosed with Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2) in 2015, I was well-versed in the stigma surrounding HIV and STDs.One person nervously insisted he tested negative for the HSV-2 antibody and promised to send me his testing history.Another accidentally texted me when she meant to text a friend to say “how sorry she felt” for me and how “devastated” she would be if she were in my place.My experience with stigma continued as I made a point to inform partners of my diagnosis.

I wasn’t looking for anyone to blame, I just wanted to be responsible and respectful of my partners.At the time of my diagnosis, my doctor did not take a sexual history, and we did not discuss how I might have acquired the virus or how I could prevent transmitting it to any future partners.