Effects Of Genital Herpes Stigma
My internalization of genital herpes stigma revealed itself to me the moment that I received my diagnosis. When I heard the word herpetic, my mind worked into overdrive as it scanned the accumulated stereotypes and messages that my brain had received over my 22 years of life: dirty, diseased, unworthy, and unlovable.
As days passed following my initial diagnosis, the effects of stigma did not retreat, but my curiosity expanded. I wanted to know more about herpes: how I contracted it, who I contracted it from, and how it would alter my life. While some of my questions remain unanswered to this day, my research led me to rationalize genital herpes for what it is: . While stigma was somewhat navigable, my emotions teetered on the edge of a sinking ship.
Can I Be Treated To Prevent Genital Herpes Transmission To My Partner
Yes. A large study showed that if one partner has herpes and the other partner is uninfected, treating the infected partner with suppressive therapy can prevent transmission of symptomatic herpes in over 90% of cases. This is an option for couples who are interested in having unprotected sex or who are planning to become pregnant.
If you are entering into a new relationship and are aware that you have herpes simplex infection, you owe it to your partner to notify them before having sex.
Is There A Cure For Herpes Simplex
There is no cure for herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, its a lifelong infection.
What is the outlook for people with herpes simplex?
For many people, the first herpes outbreak is the most severe. Many outbreaks are less frequent and milder after the first year of infection. Some people may have only one outbreak and never have another again.
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How Do I Know If I Have Herpes
If a person has an active herpes outbreak with visible sores, a physician or specialist such as a dermatologist can make a diagnosis based on a physical examination. If the physical symptoms alone are not enough, a doctor may take a swab of the sore and send it to a lab for analysis.
If a person does not have physical sores but is concerned, blood tests are available.
People can also take at-home herpes tests, though they should seek a consultation with a doctor to confirm a diagnosis and seek treatment.
Adjusting To A Herpes Diagnosis
The first step in dealing with a herpes diagnosis, then, is recognizing it as a common, manageable virus, not a punishment or judgment. The next step is realizing that health is never perfect. In reality, everyone faces a host of physical challenges as inevitable as life itself. The task is to meet them and get past them. Fortunately, most people with herpes find that, with time, they are able to adjust to the medical and emotional impact of herpes and move on.
If you are experiencing a strong emotional response to a diagnosis, it might be helpful to explore why those feelings may be happening. Closely connected to the issue of self-image is the matter of how we believe others see us. This is where the social stigma about genital herpes whether perceived or real can be pinpointed.
One reason that genital herpes raises issues of social stigma is the fact that, as a society, were just beginning to feel comfortable talking about sex and sexuality in general. Today, we are surrounded by images of sex in art, entertainment, and advertisements. There are signs as well that on a personal level we are becoming somewhat more open about topics such as sexual orientation and sexual function. With herpes theres a similar trend to more awareness and openness. Surveys show that the public is more educated on the subject than ever before. Perhaps the day will come when even the idea of social stigma will be a distant memory.
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Telling A Sexual Partner
Whether or not to tell a partner you have herpes when you are symptom-free is a point of controversy â for many people, the potential stigma is a greater cause of distress than coping with the physical symptoms.
Most sexual health clinics will advise you to tell your partner. When doing so, offer reassurance that you will inform them immediately if you experience signs of an impending outbreak, and that it is highly unlikely the virus will be transmitted unless you have visible blisters. It is also worth pointing out that as youâre aware you have herpes, you can take precautions and are far less likely to pass it on than someone undiagnosed who has mild symptoms and doesnât know they have it!
OâMahony comments: âPeople susceptible to facial cold sores donât feel they have to tell everyone they kiss that they had one six months ago itâs just that thereâs more stigma around genital herpes, which we need to deflate.â
Government Of Canadas Role
The Government of Canada works to help Canadians maintain and improve their mental health, including coping with stress. Within its jurisdiction, the Government of Canada works to:
- generate and disseminate knowledge, and support both knowledge generation and dissemination activities undertaken by other organizations
- strengthen the capacity of the primary health care, home care and acute care sectors to effectively deliver mental health programs and services
- provide leadership and governance
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What Does Genital Herpes Look Like
While some people with genital herpes will never have any symptoms, other people can develop symptoms within a few weeks of being infected.
Often, before the lesions appear, patients describe a prodrome, characterized by a tingling or burning sensation in the area where the lesions will develop that can be noticed during urination, along with itching or discomfort in the genital area.
You can also have the following symptoms:
- Blisters on the mouth or lips
- Fever, headache or pain in the joints
- Trouble urinating
The symptoms of genital herpes often go away and come back as recurring outbreaks. For most people, the first outbreak is the worst, and can last from two to three weeks. Future flare-ups are often less severe and do not last as long. Still, some people shed the virus regularly. The following triggers can make outbreaks more likely to occur:
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Menstrual periods
Recurrent genital herpes is most common in the first year after the initial infection and decreases as time goes on.
In many cases, anti-herpes medicine can help patients. When a person experiences a prodrome and suspects a recurrence is going to happen, they begin taking anti-herpes medications that lessen symptoms and shorten the time of the outbreak.
How Do You Know You Have Herpes
When a person has oral herpes, “cold sores” or “fever blisters” can show up on the lips or around the mouth. These sores may also show up inside the mouth, but this usually only happens the first time oral herpes symptoms appear.
Most people with genital herpes have no symptoms, have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed, or have symptoms but do not recognize them as a sign of infection. Genital herpes symptoms include blisters, sharp pain or burning feelings if urine flows over sores, an inability to urinate if severe swelling of sores blocks the urethra , itching, open sores, and pain in the infected area.
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Prevention Of Genital Herpes
The best protection against STIs is to always use barrier protection such as condoms, female condoms and dams . Because herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact, condoms will reduce the risk of transmission, but it will not protect sexual partners completely as condoms do not cover the entire genitals.
Using lubricant with a condom during sex will also reduce the risk of trauma to the genital skin. This has been shown to reduce HSV transmission, especially in the first six months of a sexual relationship. Silicone-based lubricants are recommended.
Remember that herpes transmission can occur when symptoms are present , but may also occur even if there are no genital symptoms through asymptomatic viral shedding.
For people who have frequent episodes of genital herpes, antiviral medication, taken daily, helps to reduce transmission of herpes to a sexual partner.
Building A Support System
Unfortunately, not everyone has access to mental health care and therefore must rely on external support systems. Disclosures can be daunting, especially when youre recently diagnosed, but a supportive friend will do their best to understand and support you in the best way they know how and they may not know how to support you through your diagnosis. A supportive friend will play the role of an active listener, offering space to let you vent or cry. A supportive friend will ask how they can best help you through your healing process. A supportive friend may also learn of their own intrinsic stigma about sexually transmitted infections during this process, and you both may be required to deal with the deconstruction of stigma together.
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I Had Lesions When I Was Evaluated But My Culture Was Negative Does This Mean That I Dont Have Herpes
Not necessarily. Although lesions can be caused by something other than herpes, false negative herpes tests can occur if the samples are not taken appropriately, if there is a long transport time between the clinic and the laboratory, or if cultures were taken late in the course of the lesions. Lesions that occur early in the course of a herpes outbreak are much more likely to have positive cultures than cultures taken after the lesions crust over.
Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should talk to your sex partner about their risk. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely. Having sores or other symptoms of herpes can increase your risk of spreading the disease. Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partners.
You may have concerns about how genital herpes will impact your health, sex life, and relationships. While herpes is not curable, it is important to know that it is manageable with medicine. Daily suppressive therapy can lower your risk of spreading the virus to others. Talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns and treatment options.
A genital herpes diagnosis may affect how you will feel about current or future sexual relationships. Knowing how to talk to sexual partners about STDs is important.
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Treatment The First Time You Have Genital Herpes
You may be prescribed:
- antiviral medicine to stop the symptoms getting worse you need to start taking this within 5 days of the symptoms appearing
- cream for the pain
If you have had symptoms for more than 5 days before you go to a sexual health clinic, you can still get tested to find out the cause.
The Positive Side Of Having Herpes
There is ABSOLUTELY a silver lining to having genital herpes. Here are just a few positive thinking and Acceptance. A diagnosis of herpes can actually have some positive effects too. For some people, having herpes can mean a better quality of life by paying more attention to the body and motivating us to improve our overall health.
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Do Not Let Herpes Define You
Herpes does not change all the good and wonderful things that make you you. It has nothing to do with your intelligence, social habits, or bank account. You are a loving, sexual, whole individual and no-one else on the planet has the things that you have to offer remember this. This skin condition does not make the essence of you any less beautiful.
More people than you could ever imagine are affected by herpes, including some of your family, friends and co-workers. Its just that people dont talk about it! There are 40+ famous people and star with herpes with herpes too.
If you are at a party, a work place or family gathering and there is 20 people there, guess what? Statistically 4 people at this gathering have genital herpes and nearly 14 will have oral herpes. Yikes! Looks like the people without herpes antibodies are the odd ones out.
Dating With Herpes And Talking To Sexual Partners About Herpes
Dating with herpes doesnât need to be a big deal. Most people with genital herpes can still have satisfying sex lives.
Yes, there are some things youâll need to do to date responsibly and take care of your sexual partners â like using protection, even when youâre not experiencing an outbreak â but that doesnât mean your dating life will be nothing but awkward moments and heartbreak.
The most difficult part of having a conversation about herpes with a sexual partner is getting started. You may fear the other personâs initial reaction more than anything else, rather than the conversation that happens after theyâve had time to digest new information.
Here are some conversation prompts to help you get over that initial hump:
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How Has My Partner Caught Genital Herpes
If your partner has only just been diagnosed with genital herpes, this does not necessarily mean that they have been unfaithful to you or sexually promiscuous in the past.
- Your partner may have caught genital herpes from you. You can carry the virus without knowing you have it as some people have no symptoms.
- It is also possible that your partner caught the virus from a cold sore on your mouth or face during oral sex. You can pass the virus on even if you don’t have a cold sore at the time of contact.
- Your partner may have contracted the virus from a previous sexual partner, even several years ago. The virus can remain inactive in your body for long periods.
Jenelle’s Marie On Her Herpes Diagnoses
A positive herpes test can be difficult to deal with. Here are some of Jenelle Marie’s tips.
Blogger and activist Jenelle Marie Davis experienced her first outbreak when she was 16 years old. Today Jenelle runs the STD project, an American STI awareness site, and travels all over the US to educate people about STIs and to dispel some of the myths related to sexually transmitted infections.
Davis has spent her adult life advocating STI awareness and understanding. Her message is simple:
When were you diagnosed with herpes?
When I was first diagnosed at 16, I was in complete shock. I was full of shame, and I internalized all of the stigmas about STIs. I thought all the stigmas were true and that I would never be able to date again or find anyone who would want me because I believed I was damaged goods. Of course, thats all wildly inaccurate and the opposite of my actual dating experiences, but at the time, I thought it was all true, and I was mortified.
How did you deal with the herpes test being positive?
What would you recommend to others in this situation?
Jenelle Marie Davis took a positive herpes test when she was 16. Herpes Simplex is caused by the herpes simplex virus and is currently incurable. Outbreaks can be managed with painkillers, local anaesthetic cream, anti-viral treatment, salt water baths.
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Overcome The Shame Of Having Herpes
One of the first steps in dealing with shame is understanding how common herpes is. It affects more than 20 percent of the population, black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight. A genital herpes diagnosis says nothing about who you are. There are 40+ famous people with herpes too . Read more how to destroy your herpes shame and embrace your imperfections.
Basic Facts About Herpes
- There are two main types of herpes simplex virus: HSV-1, most commonly associated with cold sores, and HSV-2, most commonly known as genital herpes.
- While HSV-1 mainly causes oral herpes, it can also cause genital herpes and be transmitted through oral sex.
- Most oral and genital herpes infections are asymptomatic ââ that means you can be living with herpes but never experience an outbreak.
- Symptoms of herpes include painful blisters or ulcers at the site of infection.
- While there is no cure for herpes, the disease is quite manageable with antiviral treatment and topical creams.
- Herpes is most contagious during symptomatic outbreaks, but it can still be transmitted without symptoms.
While this article is focused on how to live with herpes, you can learn more about the actual herpes virus here.
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Tips For Dealing With Herpes And Depression
1. Admit youre depressed. The feelings are overwhelming, thats the problem with depression. Its no wonder they say depression is like a dark cloud that follows you around everywhere. Admitting youre feeling horrible is half the problem.
Now these feelings will go away with time, but in the meantime you can acknowledge you feel just terrible. Youve got good reasons to feel that way.
2. Go get help if youre really depressed or suicidal. And call someone! If youre feeling life cant go on with this diagnosis, its time for some help. These feelings are serious! Herpes is not that big a deal, a skin condition that is treatable. It wont kill you. But suicidal thoughts and depression can! I just lost a cousin to suicide and it hurt so many people in my family. So call a psychologist, ask your family for help, or call a hotline.
Get some help. Many people need psychological support to get over issues like this. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can get on with your life.
Heres some U.S suicide prevention numbers and/or websites:
a. Suicide Prevention Lifeline
They have numbers from around the world.
d. Heres a list of some more international numbers: