STD Testing

Tag: STD Testing

How Stigma and Emotions Trigger Genital Herpes Outbreaks

How Stigma and Emotions Trigger Genital Herpes Outbreaks

By Contributing Author: Stephanie

The Stigma Of Herpes
The Stigma Of Herpes

As a sociology student who lives with genital herpes, I find particular interest in the stigma of the virus. The term ‘stigma’ was originally used by the Greeks to describe an abnormal or immoral trait in an individual. The term was brought back into context in the 20th century by sociologist Erving Goffman. Goffman uses this term to refer to a trait that is deeply discrediting to an individual’s identity (Goffman 1986). I am sure we can all agree that a genital herpes diagnosis certainly fits this criterion.

Because of my background in this area I automatically made a connection between research on stigma in the field of sociology and the section titled “The Impact of Our Emotions on Symptoms” in Dr. Kelly Martin Schuh’s book: Live, Love and Thrive with Herpes. In this section, Dr. Kelly, as she is known within our community, discusses how constantly worrying that symptoms might show up ironically can trigger an outbreak. I have also experienced this phenomenon as someone who is dating with genital herpes. One of the many pieces of research connecting these two topics is a 2009 study by Rao and colleagues. The researchers in this study were aiming to develop a stigma scale for chronic illness, as opposed to short-term illness. Simply put, the study found that when an individual is diagnosed with a stigmatizing illness, he or she goes through what is called the “Self Stigma Process.” A person goes sequentially through Steps 1 through 5 and experiences the Self Stigma Process in steps 3 and 4

How Stigma Affects A Person With Herpes

  1. Enacted Stigma
  2. Felt/Perceived Stigma or Stereotype Awareness
  3. Stereotype Agreement
  4. Self Concurrence or Internalization
  5. Self Esteem Detriment/Psychological Distress

During this process individuals will become aware of stereotypes about their illness, begin to agree with them, and eventually internalize these ideas, which will finally cause them psychological distress (Rao et. al 2009). In other words, awareness of the stigma brings about stress, and as we all know stress can trigger outbreaks. As I reflect on how the “Self Stigma Process” relates to my own experience with herpes, I find it to be a good fit. When I was first diagnosed I became much more aware of the social stigma that such a diagnosis holds. I then began to understand the negative stereotypes that create the stigma, and I even began to believe those to be true about myself. I finally internalized those negative beliefs and began to feel extreme shame and guilt towards my diagnosis, which I believe caused an increase in the physical symptoms I was experiencing. As Dr. Kelly, I, and I am sure many of you have experienced, dating with herpes brings all those negative stereotypes associated with the virus to the surface. The thought of having to disclose your situation with someone can cause extreme distress. The irony of this situation is almost humorous, but I know first hand that it can be very traumatizing.

Although I have begun to reverse some of my internalization of those negative stereotypes, dating still brings me back to them even if it’s just for a brief moment. So, how do we stop this vicious cycle of dating, stress, and outbreaks? The good news is that awareness of this connection is the first step to controlling it. Once you know that this particular thought process could actually make your symptoms worse, you can start to change that thought process to control the situation to your liking. It may seem to be much easier said than done, but the answer is much simpler than you probably imagine: affirmations. As Dr. Kelly’s book Live, Love, & Thrive with Herpes illustrates, affirmations begin to develop new neurological pathways in the brain to enhance positive self-concepts. An affirmation can be thought of as creating a truth about yourself through your words.

Affirmations: An Exercise

  1. Write some positive statements about yourself and why you are so incredibly dateable and lovable, and then say them out loud. Some affirmations I have made include phrases like:

My skin is flawless I am sexy My body is strong, healthy, and beautiful

Once you hear the thoughts out loud you may just start a new process that we can call the “Self Love Process.” With this information I hope you all can start more positive thought processes when it comes to dating and looking for love! Purchase Your Copy Here Live Love and Thrive with Herpes

References:

  • Goffman, Erving. 1986. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. New York, NY: Simon and Shuster Inc.
  • Rao, Deepa, Choi, Seung W., Victorson, David, Bode, Rita, Peterman, Amy, Heinemann, Allen, and David Cella. 2009. “Measuring Stigma Across Neurological Conditions: The Development of the Stigma Scale for Chronic Illness.” Quality of Life Research 18:585-595.
  • Schuh, Kelly Martin. 2012. Live, Love and Thrive With Herpes: A Holistic Guide For Women. Pink Tent International, LLC pg. 27-28.   

 

StephanieHeadshotAbout The Author

Hi Everyone! My name is Stephanie.  I was diagnosed with HSV-2 in April of 2014 when I was 22 years old.  Right now, almost three years later, I am a doctoral student in the sociology department at Purdue University.  I recently completed my MA in sociology at the University of Northern Colorado where I explored the role of stigma in the process of disclosing a genital herpes diagnosis.  With that said, if anyone is interested in reading what I discovered in my project, I am happy to share that with you! I plan to continue advocating for our community, as well as studying the social factors that influence sexual health in order to understand how we can create a world that is easier for people diagnosed with STIs.  I really enjoy writing for the Pink Tent community and am excited to be able to share some of my experiences and thoughts about living with genital herpes with you all.

 

Genital Herpes Diagnosis? 5 Top Things You Must Know

Positive Genital Herpes Diagnosis? 5 Top Things You Must Know

Are you a woman who was just diagnosed with genital herpes? If so, be sure to watch this video where Dr. Kelly explains what you must know. As a woman, doctor and 15 year carrier, she understands the stigma and shock of a genital herpes diagnosis. Need more support? Have more questions? Check our our new online Foundations Course©, which is complete private! You can be a student AND remain anonymous on your terms and on your time frame to learn. . Herpes Support Course for Women

Don’t wait until your next outbreak or heartbreak to -Learn how to naturally manage your outbreaks -Reclaim your birthright to a happy, healthy sex life -Learn the top hidden herpes triggers that your doctor never told you In addition to all of these benefits…… you don’t have to feel all alone anymore! Join our community of Women Supporting Women With Herpes and become part of an intimate group of women who are committed to living a vibrant, happy, healthy life….despite their having genital herpes. Reclaim your self-esteem and sex life today!

Live. Love. Thrive.

Dr. Kelly

P.S. If you are screaming in silence and feel that you have nowhere to turn, this is the course for you. I am committed to your success if you’ll just leap and have faith that you can learn to live and love again. You deserve it!

P.S.S. Our Pink tent™community is committed to serving you. Please share your story on our forum and receive the support you need. It’s FREE!  

Herpes Diagnosis In A Foreign Country- By “Trying To Be Brave 2”

Flower patternMy story is a new one. I am a 38 year old  who lives and works in a country far away from home …I just found out three days ago. I only got tested because my partner of six months suddenly had an outbreak.  I went to my Gyno..he actually REFUSED to test me though I literally begged. I told him what was happening to my partner, he told me I have no signs of the disease..and I should come back if I ever have signs. Can you imagine!!! I am actually worried about my health..even other than the Disease I now have…I am not so trusting anymore…I often just trust doctors blindly.

I went to another clinic, language barrier in tow, and got the tests done. The doctor could hardly explain to me what the results meant. (I saw IgG  99.8+. 2.0….that looked positive to me.) Despite our inability to communicate, I know in my heart that I am positive. Again, this Dr. was telling me I had no problem…”sigh” It is doubly lonely here for me as I am far away from home. I am not fluent in the language either, and the native people have a hard time understanding the concept of confidentiality, even friends..At my workplace this would have been all over the staffroom by day’s end if I told my closest pal. I don’t know if this is something I should, or have to share with my friends, so I won’t. Is that ok?

I don’t want to share it with my family either ..maybe my sisters in time..not right now. My mom worries too much and gets sick.I am at a loss having never experienced an outbreak..do I still take meds even though I don’t even know when I am having an outbreak or when I will be contagious?  I am now terrified of spreading it to other parts of my body and other people as I don’t even know when I am shedding. This country is a bit relaxed where STD’s are concerned, I basically have no one to turn to for information After many moons of being single, then finding someone I really love..this happens. I just need the reassurance that everyday for the rest of my life will not be filled with sadness and the sense of loss that I now feel. My partner is so scared he is slowly locking me out of his life…he is a bit of a softy and we are not sure who gave who and it is killing him that it may be him ..(me too) he gets actual OBs so he can’t be stressed…even riding his bike gives him OBs…I think just looking at me stresses him out. I want to talk to him about it..he prefers online friends as he can’t handle the emotion involved in talking to me. (Even before I found out I was positive he didn’t even want to use the camera during SKYPE)I am heartbroken. I have overcome much in my lifetime…I will survive I think…but I need some help.  I am gonna be ok..but these first few days are not so nice.. Thank you so much for doing this Dr. You are a brave woman. Thanks. Tryingtobebrave2

You Probably Have Herpes and Don’t Know It

 

You Probably Have Herpes and Don’t Know It

I came across a great article today written by Vox magazine entitled: Bad news: you probably have herpes and don’t know it.  It is so refreshing to see that there are other people out there trying to educate the public about herpes. Did you know that at least 85% of the population that has genital herpes and doesn’t even know it? This is the same virus that causes chicken pox, cold sores and shingles.  I had a friend of mine ask me, “then, how do we know that they have herpes.” What a great question!

In 2006, the largest study ever on genital herpes was conducted on a cross section of the American population.  The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey asked people who thought that they did not have herpes to participate in the study. Each participant was then tested for herpes using type specific blood tests for HSV-2. When the tests were then analyzed, it was determined that 85% of those participants did in fact test positive for herpes. Then, the group that tested positive for HSV-2 (genital herpes) were then educated on the signs and symptoms of herpes. It was then determined that 70% of those tested were then able to positively identify previous signs and symptoms of herpes.

I have quoted this study time and again in my outreach to educate the public about the high prevalence of genital herpes. Genital herpes is the most common STI and yet no one is comfortable talking about it because of its stigma. This is just one of the many enlightening statistics that reveals the truth about herpes. I also think it is important to reveal that women are 3-4x more likely to contract herpes and at least 1 in 4 women have it. It is our time as women to stand in our power and reveal to the public the reality of this condition.

Remember how people used to openly make fun of HIV and those who suffered from it? Rarely do you hear comedians making such rude comments regarding HIV and AIDs. It is time that those with herpes take a stand and educate the public about this mostly benign infection that does not lead to any other diseases. Wake up America! The next time you poke fun of someone with herpes or make a herpes joke, know that there is a very good chance that you are making fun of your best friend or loved one that just hasn’t had the courage to disclose their status to you.

Want to get educated, empowered and inspired? Check out my Amazon bestseller Live, Love and Thrive with Herpes: A Holistic Guide For Women.  

Think you have herpes? What you MUST ask your doctor…

 

Think you have herpes? What you MUST ask your doctor

Doctor's OfficeI was trekking in Nepal when I had my first symptoms of a herpes outbreak. I was 23 years old and taking a trip around the world. Little did I know that his trip would change me forever, in ways that I could have never imagined. At first, I thought it was just an irritation from hiking for days on end, but once the burning set in and the little blisters appeared, I knew better. How could this be, I thought? Why me?

I had been intimate with someone just days before and I vaguely remember him having a fever blister from the high altitude sunshine. My mind raced as the burning and itching intensified. I knew I had to get to a doctor as soon as I could, get to some “real” medical treatment in Katmandu.

Long story, cut very, very short…my worst nightmare came true. Within days I was diagnosed with genital herpes from a doctor at a clinic in Katmandu. My diagnosis was based on visual inspection, which, back then, was how it was done. You can read more about my journey in my new book, “Live, Love and Thrive with Herpes: A Holistic Guide for Women.”

Times have changed since the early 90’s and testing for genital herpes is so much more advanced. Now they have blood tests and culture tests which can determine whether or not you have herpes and which strain of the herpes virus you carry (HSV-1 and/or HSV-2). If you are reading this right now and are freaking out that you too might have genital herpes, my first piece of advice for you is to take a deep breath and know that you are not alone!  If it is genital herpes, we know that at least 1 in 4 women in the U.S. have genital herpes. That’s 1 in 4! That statistic is higher than the rate of invasive breast cancer, 1 in 8, and no one is talking about this!

Herpes is often referred to as the Great Masquerader because it can look like so many different things. This is difficult for the patient and doctor alike. Genital herpes could be mistaken for a bug bite, allergic reaction, urinary tract infection, yeast infection etc. So, just because you think you might have genital herpes, you may or may not. If you have itching, burning, tingling, painful urination, or fluid filled blisters then I encourage you to go to your doctor or nearest STD clinic to get tested.

The reason you want to do this right away is that once the body starts to heal from  an outbreak, the chances of you getting an accurate diagnosis decreases with time. Our immune system is constantly working to kill off any foreign invaders and this includes the herpes virus. So, if you wait to long, the immune system might have already killed off the majority of the herpes virus at the surface of the skin. While the virus might be killed off at the surface of the skin, it remains dormant in the spinal chord, indefinitely.

I know that going to a doctor for something like this might be very embarrassing, but it doesn’t need to be. If you are too embarrassed to go to your primary care doctor, consider going to an STD clinic. These people are truly experts at diagnosing herpes! Here is a bullet list of things you should know and require.

1. The most important thing to do is to go get tested right away. Don’t wait!

2. The doctor or nurse will want to see the affected area and this might include an internal exam (the outbreak might also be on the vaginal walls or on the cervix)

3. Require your doctor to perform a culture ( a culture is when they rub the area with a q -tip like tool and collect a sample). Do NOT rely on visual inspection because it might be incorrect.

4. Request a type specific test of your culture. The reason you want a type specific test is that it will let you know if you have either HSV-1 or HSV-2. This becomes important for compatibility with future partners and possible prognosis.

5. If your test comes back negative, wait at least 2-3 months to get your blood tested. If this is truly your first exposure, then it can take some time for the antibodies to show up in your blood.

If you ARE diagnosed with herpes, the women of Pink Tent are here to support you on our women’s only private forum. We are a group of Women Supporting Women with Herpes. The forum is the perfect place to ask questions, get support and get inspired.

Live. Love. Thrive.

Dr. Kelly

Spreading Herpes To Children-Taryn

Spreading Herpes To Children?: I don’t know where to start. I feel like I’ve been swallowed into a black hole since my diagnosis. I have a 14 month old and a 4 month old. During both pregnancies I suffered UTI’s, Vaginitis, and yeast infections. The baby was born at 33 weeks due to ruptured membranes from an unknown infection. My mind has been racing wondering if all of my issues were due to herpes that I didn’t know I had. I’ve been faithfully with the same partner/ husband for 3 years. All the times I was checked for STD’s I had absolutely no idea that tests for herpes was not done unless requested. Why was I not informed? I’ve never been promiscuous and always thought I was safe. Yearly pap and STD testing, using protection and now this! I feel dirty and ashamed. My husband tries to be supportive but I just want to hide away. Herpes has consumed my every thought, my hands are raw from washing them, I’ve gone through more bleach in the past few weeks than I normally do in a year and I’m afraid to kiss my boys. My stomach hurts from the Valtrex. The sores ( this is the first time I’ve had them) are healing but my body tingles almost painfully in odd spots all over my body. From mid buttock on both sides down to my toes is sore and tight, almost like the muscles are too short. I have read more on the Internet than I ever cared too. Comparing pictures of sore and blisters to mine, others symptoms to mine. Yet I am at such a complete loss. How will I know if an outbreak is coming? How dangerous is this for my children? What if I spread it to them already because I didn’t know I had it? How do I keep outbreaks from occurring?