Those of us who have so-called “genital herpes” are caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand we are ostracized by the minority of the population (about 40%) who don’t currently have herpes simplex in their body, which is bad enough, but more cruelly we are often isolated by our fellow members of the herpes community who have so-called cold sores (heroes simplex 1 of the mouth and face). Frankly the lack of support form the majority of population who has cold sores bothers me far more than the stigma placed on me by unsympathetic members of the uninfected population. After-all they don’t know what it feels like to have herpes so I can cut them some slack. But for those of you who have cold sores and continue pretending that you don’t have herpes and who distance yourselves from those who have their outbreaks genitally rather than facially- shame on you. If it wasn’t for your unwillingness to come to terms with the reality of your herpes infection, the herpes community would be a more united majority of the population far more empowered to boldly go out into the community and reject the unjust and irrational stigma placed on people with herpes.
Sixty percent of the population has herpes. We are living in a herpes nation. There is no reason for us to be a despised minority. If we were more united and more out of the closet we would be in a so much better position to inspire understanding and support from those who do not have herpes. We would be better able to educate young people on herpes prevention and herpes awareness. We would be better able to reach out to the people with herpes who have had their self-esteem devastated.
So-called cold sores are herpes. I have had too many people in my clinic and through the Internet say to me, “I don’t have herpes, I’ve never had an STD, but I do get these cold sores on my lips”.
Herpes is herpes whether you get your outbreaks above the waist or below the waist. It’s true that people with type 1 herpes of the mouth and face often have fewer outbreaks than people with herpes type 2 of the genitals, but it is also true that herpes of the mouth and face is just as contagious if not more so than genital herpes. It is also true that many people with type 1 herpes of the mouth and face shed virus without symptoms and are giving many people type 1 herpes on their genitals from oral sex. It is also true that herpes of the mouth and face can spread to parts of the body that genital herpes rarely ever spreads to including the nostrils and into the brain, the hands and fingers, down the esophagus and into the stomach, into the eyes, and elsewhere.
For those who don’t have herpes and give people with herpes a rough time, I really have no words for you. If you believe that having genital herpes is an indication of promiscuity or moral deficiency then you are probably too far-gone for anything I say here to reach you. And for the record I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with promiscuity. I got my herpes in the context of a monogamous relationship but I wouldn’t feel bad about myself if I had been infected by herpes through promiscuity. How you got herpes is irrelevant. Herpes is a virus. Viruses have different strategies for gaining access to our bodies. A virus that chooses sex as it’s preferred method of infection is less scary to me than an airborne virus that indiscriminately devastates huge populations in a matter of days.
Jesus said “let he is who is without sin cast the first stone”. I say let he or she who is without a virus cast the first stone. Between the Chicken-Pox virus (a member of the herpes family), the Epstein-Barr virus (another member of the herpes family), the HPV virus (genital warts and cervical dysplasia) and Herpes Simplex there is virtually no adult reading this article who doesn’t currently have a virus in their body and except for the HPV virus, these viruses are lifelong infections and that’s without even discussing bacteria, fungi, yeast, and protozoa.
Herpes has been around since the time of the dinosaurs and affects akmost every animal with a backbone including cats and elephants and many animals without a backbone. In fact cats and elephants are dying of herpes. I know that cats can be randy but I have never heard of anyone accusing elephants of being promiscuous. If anyone has ever seen an elephant orgy let me know so that I can print a retraction.
When someone has the integrity and courage to tell you that they have herpes they are making themselves vulnerable to you. How you react can often either crush them or help set them free from a prison of shame. I believe that most people are intelligent and compassionate. Please treat people with herpes with the compassion and understanding we deserve. We are the same people we were before we got herpes. We are no less moral, no less attractiv, just as good in bed, just as good of a friend or son or daughter or brother or sister as we were before we got herpes. When someone tells you they have herpes if you treat them unsympathetically it only discourages them for telling others about their herpes in the future, which isn’t a good situation for anyone. When someone tells you they have herpes it’s an opportunity and challenge to you to show that you are not prejudiced and mean-spirited. It is a chance for us all to create more love and understanding.
For those of us who have genital herpes – don’t buy into the lies and myths that make you ashamed and marginalized. You can choose not to let herpes define you and dominate your life. No one can take away your power and dignity except for yourself.
When someone gives you a bad time for having herpes instead of dwelling too long in anger or sadness, just “forgive them for they know not what they do”. Embrace all the beauty and love around you and if there isn’t enough beauty and love, create it. You are a human being equipped with infinite potential for loving and appreciating the wonders of this world.
Those of us who have so-called “genital herpes” are caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand we are ostracized by the minority of the population (about 40%) who don’t currently have herpes simplex in their body, which is bad enough, but more cruelly we are often isolated by our fellow members of the herpes community who have so-called cold sores (heroes simplex 1 of the mouth and face). Frankly the lack of support form the majority of population who has cold sores …