Our conversation this issue is with Laura N., one of the coordinator’s with the HELP of Washington (D.C.) HSV support group. In addition to regular meetings, the group maintains a Web site at http://www.metrodchelp.org/ and also has an affiliated social group that sponsors activities throughout the Washington Metro area.
What led you to become involved with HELP of Washington?
I went to my first meeting and Joe, the coordinator, said he was leaving and if no one picked it up the group would terminate. I also had been thinking before hand that I would like to do some kind of volunteer work. So this was a perfect opportunity. Not only was I donating my time to others, it was my own issue as well.
What are the common questions and concerns of your HELP Group members?
New people are concerned about the physical, emotional, and social impacts. There is anger at who gave HSV to them and towards a doctor who may have minimized the diagnosis, or who never tested for the virus in what was thought to be a thorough STD check. The people who have had herpes for some time have gotten past that and are mainly concerned about the social implications surrounding a future or present partner. All are concerned about: how and when do I tell a perspective partner, do I tell my family, what friends do I tell, who in my social circle will find out.
Stigma is such a real part of an HSV diagnosis for many. What do you recommend to help cope with the emotional aspects of herpes?
What ever they can do to feel they are not alone and to normalize things. For instance, go to a support group or a chat group. Go to the herpes social events. Get on a herpes dating web site. When you feel more comfortable about it then go on regular dating sites as there is a larger selection and you need to get away from letting herpes define you. You'll be amazed at how many people have it and how people without herpes will continue to date you after they find out. In fact I am engaged to someone who does not have it. Additionally, know the facts about herpes, not only for your own knowledge but you can share it with your potential partner.
What would you tell someone who's thinking of attending a meeting but might hesitate?
Just come. We are all people just like you. We are of all colors, all socio-economic status, all ages, all religions, and are in the same shoes as you are. Here you can tell your story or just hear others without the stigma and shame. We talk about the facts, the emotions, and have some really good debates. And believe it or not, you'll hear positive uplifting stories also.
Visit Help of Washington’s website at http://www.metrodchelp.org/index.html