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This is a story of a guy who is infected with herpes. You may think it is disgusting, and it is, technically- in the sense that outbreaks feel like hell and make you think you're disgusting. However, many people are aware that it is not disgusting. My friend James contracted the infection from his girlfriend with whom he trusted and loved. She vowed she had tested negative for any STDs. Still, she managed to transmit herpes to my friend. Now, that is disgusting.

James had no knowledge of when exactly he got the infection – it is impossible to determine. However, he became aware when he initially experienced a primary outbreak. My friend woke up with a high temperature and hurting genital area. He said it was like “straddling hot, pointed coals, and being stabbed by a lava-smeared drill all at once.”

When he arrived at the closest clinic, the nurse said it was just a mosquito bite (in his genital area). Just in case, she tested James for STDs. Three extremely long and excruciating days later, the nurse contacted him to make an apology for the error: The mosquito “bite” was, in fact, herpes. She clarified – amid Jame's surprise – that my buddy has been tested positive for HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus 1), which is what causes cold sores as well.

James did not care. He did not listen to her and thought nobody would love him again… ever.

The months had passed after the diagnosis and they were very awful moments of Jame's life. He was deeply depressed and consumed food to relieve the pain; my friend winded up gaining thirty-five pounds. He felt lonesome and filthy. He was certain he'd be alone for the rest of his life.

But he was so wrong. He did find love once more. And he was not alone, like literally. Herpes is very common, with data revealing that as many as 1 out of 6 people aged 14-49 in the United States are infected with herpes caused by HSV-2 (and since HSV-1 causes herpes as well, that number is probably even higher).

But still, the stigma carries on. And it is baseless, made-up, and completely false. James did not, and do not, need to feel this way, yet society caused him to think he did. He used to be a sexually active man, and because of that, he felt that he was fairly punished for his actions.

And therefore James punished himself by avoiding women and dating completely. He found comfort in isolation. He could not face the unavoidable discussion of having to disclose that he had HSV. He assumed he was gross, but he wasn't. He just didn't know.


James is currently in a happy, dedicated relationship with a woman, who is aware of his herpes diagnosis and cares for him nonetheless. He takes his meds every day, and gets tested on a regular basis. His partner has not contracted herpes; she never did.

He lived and prospered – and if you discovered you are infected with herpes, you too can and will be able to live a happy and prosperous life. Just keep yourself always informed and safe. And you can begin there.

I consulted my physician to clarify some mistaken belief regarding the herpes virus. It is time to clear things up: Herpes isn't the end for you.

How is HSV transmitted?

Herpes (both HSV-2 and HSV-1) is transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact, which frequently occurs through sexual intimacy or sexual contact, but can also occur during kissing or touching of an entirely non-sexual nature, as such from an adult to a child. Although uncommon, genital herpes can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to the baby during vaginal delivery.

Can you only pass on herpes once you have an active outbreak?

You must stop having sexual contact once you feel the warning signs and symptoms of an outbreak. These may include an itching, burning, or tingling sensation around the mouth or on the genitals. Don't do oral, anal, or vaginal sex – even when a condom is used – until a week after the warning signs and indications stop and the blisters heal. HSV can be transmitted from sores not protected by the condom. Also, it can spread in vaginal fluids or sweat to areas the condom does not cover.

How do you know you're infected with herpes?

When an individual has oral herpes, “fever blisters” or “cold sores” can appear around the mouth or on the lips. These sores could also appear within the mouth, but this frequently only occurs the first time the symptoms of oral herpes show up.

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