A Brief Summary of One Life with Herpes and HPV

The stigma associated with having an STI and the consequent miseducation surrounding STIs really bums me out. To put it lightly. I have had HPV for almost a decade and herpes for seven years. Although now I think of the former of being of almost no consequence (a nurse told me it’s more common than the common cold, and I haven’t had any trouble with outbreaks), the actual experience around contracting it was really traumatic—having the person who had recently dumped me and also given it to me take me to the hospital for eletrode loop therapy, which is incredibly painful, and not being comfortable with telling anyone (and therefore accessing support) because of the stigma. And not to forget that my risk of cervical cancer has now increased… But dealing with herpes has been a far greater challenge.

In spite of this, over the years I have come to have a sense of “herpes pride”—not that I’m truly proud about it, but the concept really helps cultivate an alternative to shame and secrecy. I am lucky to be in a community that is open about these things, but even then I still find rejection and derision sometimes. To my mind, the greatest risk of stigma is that is lends itself perfectly to situations where STIs are not disclosed to sex partners and then carelessness can lead to transmission. I have given herpes to one person, years ago, because I was too ashamed to tell them.

I actually contracted it from someone with oral herpes when they weren’t having an outbreak at the time—I don’t think most people realize you can pass it on at all times and in all locations like that. When I got it, the same way I got HPV, I got it baaaaaad. I was very ill, but had to go to work all the same and was unable to tell anyone what was wrong. One thing worse than being terribly sick is being sick and having to lie about your situation on account of shame. I have also had doctors treat me badly—insisting I be tested, when I was telling them already that I had been diagnosed and ignoring the real issues I needed addressed. I have now been on a daily dose of Valtrex, a suppressant drug that minimizes the risk of transmission, for about 4 years. It has done as promised, but I love the idea of getting off it (on account of money and, ugh, who wants to take a pill every single day?). Still, it helped put my last partner’s mind at ease regarding transmission. My tactic now with disclosure is to tell a potential partner as soon as possible, before things have gone too far and it becomes awkward. If it’s on the table from the beginning, everybody knows what they’re dealing with. They can appreciate my honesty, ask questions, and assess the risk for themselves, and I can assess their character by their response. So far that’s what’s working for me… And I think I can actually be proud, if not of the STIs themselves (heh), then at least of how I live with them.

C.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Joe on January 25, 2012 at 9:46 am

    My understanding is that HPV clears from the body in 3-5 months, unlike HSV. If you have had multiple outbreaks, you might have contracted it multiple times. However, the varieties that cause warts are not the varieties that cause cancer, so unless your ObGyn detected squamish cells in your last pap smear, don’t worry yourself over that.

    Reply

    • Posted by Raul on June 6, 2014 at 11:06 pm

      yeah i it does, but its more like 18 months to 2 years plus, and thats if your lucky and weather you have a healthy immune system or not, and i have read that although it clears up, the Virus is still there, so theres always that chance of giving it so someone weather you have an outbreak or not and that it flares up later down the line, we could be talking years or even a decade or 2, so it there in again is the really golden question of does HPV really go away? or when they say it clears up, do they just mean our bodies build an immunity to it and symptoms and the virus is still inside us? to much conflicting info out there

      Reply

  2. I also have the same condition. My partner and I have been dating for 3 months before I told her. Yes I am male. I have not had sex with her. I love her more then words. I decided to tell her after my conscience got the better of me. She is now thinking of whether to end the relationship. I hate this disease. Sometimes I feel like crawling in a hole and dying. I feel suicidal whenever I think of the good times we had and that Ill never know what it feels like to kiss or hold her in my arms and love her. Im truly broken by this disease.

    Reply

    • Posted by ashely on August 24, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      My worse fear of having this disease is telling someone about it. I have kept it to myself for a long time. Losing her hurts but i do believe you will find someone to stay. Especially knowing that the disease is so common.

      Reply

    • Ehhh don’t feel bad. I’ve had HPV now for 8 years. Granted I’ve only had 2 short term relationships in that time…not because of my HPV but because I’m a wuss and can’t ask a girl out LOL.

      Anywho. I met someone briefly whom also had HPV not really a big deal. My current GF has herpes so it was easy for us to come out and tell one another. A big sigh of relief from both of us lol. Just have to find the right person. She’ll/He’ll come along eventually.

      My only concern is how does having HPV & HSV at the sametime will affect my body.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Julie on March 24, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    I too have hsv and hpv. I caught them both 15 years ago from my first boyfriend. Hsv is the least big deal, an extremely minor part of my existence. There is literally nothing to worry about with this virus! The first outbreak was horrible, I can relate, but as time goes on the outbreaks typically lessen in frequency and intensity. Other than an occasional itch every one or two years, at which point I take zelitrex, there is zero worry. The worry Is the hpv, as it can come back!! I had cryotherapy for the first infection and it was gone but has come back due to stress brought on after my mom passed away. Please take care of yourself, and don’t worry so much about the hsv. I will add that I found a wonderful man who accepted me and all of my STI’s. So you will find someone, and believe me, herpes is not a big deal!!!

    Reply

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