When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, most people are at best embarrassed to admit they caught something. At worst, they are downright mortified about the fact.
However, one recent college graduate, Ella Dawson, decided that after she was diagnosed with genital herpes, she was going to be honest and upfront if the question ever came up. Of course, it did.
In fact, just six months after being diagnosed, Ella told reporters she dropped the "herpes bomb" on a guy who tried to chat her up at a party.
After being asked if she wanted a sip of a guy's beer at the party, he said, "Don't worry. I don't have herpes or anything."
She quickly and aptly replied, "'That's funny. Yeah, that's really funny. Because I have genital Herpes.' His face crumbled. Not because I grossed him out — I could practically see the wheels turning in his brain as he realized he'd made an ignorant joke at someone else's expense. The guy started apologizing profusely."
Ella shared that even though jokes about herpes are rife, around one in six Americans suffer from it, making it not so funny for them.
Ella continued, "I had seen in the flesh what a simple 'I have herpes' could do when said fearlessly, without shame. Because when a real person — a woman you know and respect — casually mentions having herpes, it stops being a punchline and starts being someone's reality."
According to an advocacy group called Project Accept, herpes didn't become a stigma in America until after the 1970s. As the group notes on their website, "[Herpes] was merely a cold sore in an unusual place until the 1970s."
Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Anthony Leone, medical director of the North Carolina HIV/STD Prevention and Control Branch, told reporters that the stigmatization of the virus was fueled by conservatives after the "free love era."
Leone said, "Herpes was seen as this marker of being promiscuous or bad or evil. But unless you're in a mutually monogamous relationship with someone who has never had sex, you're at risk."
[Image credit: thegradmit.com]