We interviewed one of our amazing community members about her journey with HSV2, also known as Herpes. We are so grateful to her for sharing her story. We hope this can help further normalise Herpes, and educate our community about HSV2.
I was first diagnosed with HSV2 last year in March 2021. With HSV you can’t guarantee when the virus is transmitted as exposure could have occurred years ago. It can lie dormant in your nervous system for years before having a outbreak it’s similar to chicken pox. However I think it was transmitted from my boyfriend at the time. I came home from work at 1am after being called into work for an emergency. My partner woke up after I jumped into bed and things got frisky he gave me oral. That morning as we woke up and had breakfast I noticed a small pimple like spot on his mouth. It raised concern in my mind but I was scared to ask if it was a cold sore. As the day went on I was at work and it was honestly eating me alive and distracting me from looking after my patients. As a health conscious person I know that it’s a no no to perform oral sex with a cold sore. I eventually gained the courage to ask him if he had a cold sore. His response was his only had a cold sore once in his life and he thinks it’s just a pimple. I tried to forget about it as it presented the same way as pimple on his lip. Three nights later I woke up feeling uncomfortable down there and I felt two lumps on my outer lip that stung when I touched I was like oh no.. my heart sunk I got up to the bathroom and had a look. It could have easily had been razor rash or two pimples but in my heart I knew it was herpes. I was beside myself, I booked in at the sexual health clinic had swabs and the results came back as positive for HSV2 which is commonly known as genital herpes. As a health professional I was confused because i had never heard that genital herpes could present on the mouth. But the sexual health nurse informed me that it’s uncommon but you can have cold sores on your mouth that are HSV2 from giving oral sex, it’s not as common as cold sores orally are usually HSV1 but it works vice versa. Both strains can end up on any body mucosa. Initially I was very distraught and though my life was over, I felt suicidal. I was questioning my future, if I’d ever be a mother or have a partner that was willing to accept this. But after a lot of research and conversations with friends, I decided to not allow this stigma to dictate my life. The more I spoke about it I realised a lot of my friends also have a form of HSV and we’re hiding within the stigma, afraid to tell anyone. My boyfriend and I at the time eventually broke up due to other reasons, he was accepting of it and there were no issues with our sex life at all. I eventually started dating again and tried to navigate how to disclose my virus to dates. It took a lot of courage but the more I disclosed the easier it became, I honestly haven’t had a negative encounter with any male about my virus. I think that people really respect transparency and honesty. I won’t lie, it actually had men falling at my feet. I like to think it’s because they value and respect me for being so honest and open about it. It’s also led to me being more in touch with my body, more open with my sexuality and led me to feel more comfortable with sexual partners. I know have the best sex that I’ve ever had in my life, it can still be daunting to disclose for the first time to a partner but it’s the right thing to do and has never led to a bad reaction. I honestly don’t have many outbreaks at all but it can still be transmitted without symptoms. I have a very healthy sexual relationship with myself and my current partner. I now almost forget that it even exists within my body. I now love talking about it with friends and people that I meet to hopefully raise awareness around it and promote sexual health. After all we all have sex, sex comes with consequences like everything else. Sex is normal, STDs are a normal consequence of sex. It’s important to be open about it as 70% of the population has a strain of HSV whether they know it or not. I don’t look back at my diagnosis and get sad about it anymore or think why me, as it’s unlocked a healthy sexual life for me and actually made me a more confident person. These are important conversations to have with any sexual partner and we should be having these conversations more.
How do you bring it up with new sexual partners that you have HSV?
I initially wrote out a little template in notes for the first few times and just shot them a text after one or two dates just to help myself digest and disclosing. For me I like to disclose early on because I like to think it weeds out the people who aren't suited to me. If someone is going to stigmatise me for having a STD then they’re not the right person for me anyway. I want to be understood and respected in all of my relationships.
An example would be-
"Hey, there’s something I want to discuss with you before we continue dating. I have HSV2, also known as herpes. I want to be open and transparent with you and tell you sooner rather than later. It’s actually more common than we realise. This isn’t something that greatly affects me but it’s something that you should be aware of. I don’t get many outbreaks and there are a lot of ways to practice safe sex and avoid transmission. Your health is just as important as mine. So I value your decision if this is a deterrent for you. If you have any questions I’m an open book. Let me know how you feel about this."
They usually have a friend who has HSV or knows someone close to them or have it themselves, I’ve had so many guys respond and say actually I test positive also. Then I use it as a tool to educate people also. Most people have no issue with it at all and have a positive response which is really refreshing.
Do you have any advice for our community who have been recently diagnosed, places you have found supportive?
My advice would be not to beat yourself up about it, it’s not the end of the world. I promise you’ll go on to have beautiful, loving, and accepting relationships. It’s hard to open up about it due to all the guilt and shame you might feel but opening up about it to a friend can do wonders. Visit the sexual health clinic, the nurses there are amazing and made me feel like it wasn’t a death sentence. They see it day in and day out. There’s a Facebook page “herpes support group” which is great for support and people posting questions that anyone can respond to with support and advice that really got me through my initial diagnosis.
Also a girl on TikTok “Suzbub” is a massive herpes advocate and only posts HSV related content so she is really helpful too.