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Personal Perspectives

"To me, it's a mild annoyance"

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I contracted herpes when I was in college more than 30 years ago. The first outbreak was very, very painful and complicated by the fact that I had no medical insurance or healthcare provider.  It was scary, and I had nowhere to turn. Finally I went to an STD clinic where I was diagnosed.

I had outbreaks fairly frequently, probably three to six times a year for the next decade or so. (This was before acyclovir was available). I married and had two children (vaginal births). Unfortunately, I met and married my husband shortly after being diagnosed. I didn't have much information about the infection at that time, wasn't experienced at recognizing symptoms of an impending outbreak, and he got it from me.

After 15 years of marriage, we divorced. Since then I've had numerous sexual relationships. I've always told my potential partners before we became sexually involved. I'm always a little anxious about telling, but no one has ever declined or had a bad reaction. Also, since I'm more experienced with recognizing symptoms, no one has ever, to my knowledge, contracted the virus from me.

Acyclovir has been a huge improvement for me. I still get outbreaks fairly frequently—two to four times a year—but generally I can preempt them by taking medication at the first tingle. To me, it's a mild annoyance.  It really doesn't deserve the hysteria that some people have about it—it’s just a cold sore below the belt.

 

"This diagnosis has been the low point of my life"

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I am a 54-year old widow, diagnosed with genital herpes and HPV nine months ago. My husband died suddenly seven years ago. Since then, I have been with two men in the past four years. As you can imagine, going from a loving, thirty year monogamous relationship to the "dating scene" of the 21st century was not only difficult, but a real culture shock for me. Neither of the two aforementioned men would use a condom, because according to them they were "clean." So, I was stupid enough to proceed unprotected.

This diagnosis has been the low point of my life. I think about what I let happen to me daily and struggle to come to terms with it. For the first time in my life I have had to deal with the effects of depression, knowing I could never tell a potential partner that I am infected, rendering myself alone for the rest of my life. Even worse, I fear my sons will discover my secret and know what a fool their mother was. I always preached to them about using condoms and protecting themselves and I didn't even follow my own advice. I've noticed that most of the stories I’ve read on the ASHA website are from young people dealing with this disease. For those of you who have parents/grandparents who by death or divorce find themselves dating again, please share my story with them. Maybe some good could come from my mistake. Thank you.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Genital herpes can infect anyone at any age so it is helpful to hear diverse stories regarding personal experiences. In our Winter 2010 issue, we posted a personal perspective of a reader who initially experienced bouts of anger, sadness and depression following diagnosis. She eventually found the message boards and noted they were essential in regaining her confidence, self-esteem and self love. Perhaps they may be of help to you as well. We consistently hear from people who share your initial feelings who find that time has been helpful. Also helpful is speaking to someone about what you’re going through--whether it be a close friend, doctor or counselor, or the herpes community on the ASHA message boards. Good luck, and now that this will get better.

 

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