I have very frequently heard the phrase, “My life is over…”, but never realized the true meaning behind it until I heard the sentence, “You have herpes”, come from my doctor’s mouth last year. I remember getting into my car at the doctor’s office, and then arriving at home…but do not remember a second of the fifteen-minute drive home. I was in shock. I have what? How? From who? Is this forever? What does this mean for my sex life? Will I even have a future sex life? Will I ever get married? Can I ever have kids? Is childbirth still safe? Who will love me? How can I tell my boyfriend? Will he break up with me?
I can honestly say that this was the worst day (which in reality, turned into a month by the time all of the test results came back), of my life. I felt so lost; as if no one else in this entire world had ever been in my boat, while in reality, an astounding one out of five women ages 14 to 49 have genital herpes. What did I do next? Well, after the shock comatose feeling wore off (about 3 days, 5 bags of Lays, and two “sick” days of work later), I began to educate myself.
I read articles. Hundreds of articles. I read books. I informed myself. What did I gather? Life changing information. I learned that the majority of the time, the common “swab” testing for herpes comes back negative, even if you DO have herpes. So of course, when my swab test came back negative, I didn’t exactly jump up and down with excitement. However, because of the information I had gathered on the subject, I learned that a second test could be done- a blood test. Of course, I jumped right on this and went to get this done. Contrary to my original concerns, my boyfriend was completely understanding of the situation (even though we had been together for less than four months), and he went with me to Planned Parenthood to get the blood test as well, as this facility offers free assistance to those without insurance. (I had insurance through Kaiser, which is where I got the original “diagnosis”.)
Long story short, the blood test came back negative, as well as several other screenings, and almost a year later I am finally at ease with accepting the fact that I do not have a serious sexually transmitted disease. Do I regret the experience? Not at all. How could I be regretful? I have learned so much about my body, the medical world’s way of “diagnosing” its patients, and also a lot about the kind of human being my boyfriend is. I have learned to be comfortable with “screening” myself for abnormalities “down there”, so that I know when something isn’t quite right. I have learned that our medical offices do not take into account their patients’ mental health when related to issues such as these.
Who tells someone that they have a life-changing STD, and then sends them on their merry way to fill their 50 pill prescription without so much as a pamphlet of information on the disease? Who even prescribes a 50 pill tablet to begin with to a patient that doesn’t even need them! How harmful are these drugs on our body if they have nothing to “fight” against?
I learned that true, healthy relationships can exist. I knew the moment I fell in love with my boyfriend when I told him that I had herpes and he told me it didn’t matter and that “we” would make it through it. I knew I loved him when he went with me to get tested as well.
How can I not look at this experience as a positive one? I am a strong believer in the saying “things are meant to be”. It is a little discouraging, however, that there are a lot of other young women going through similar experiences all over the country, and who may not have done the extra research and gotten the extra tests done, other than the “physical diagnosis”. There very well be many young women who were correctly diagnosed with herpes, or other STDs, and who were sent off without any information or answers to their questions. It is our obligation as an informed and educated society to share our information with those who most need it. We also need to further educate our youth so that they know the proper precaution to take regarding protection in the bedroom so that they do not ever find themselves in this predicament. NO ONE should have to go through that experience alone.