Hearing the words, “I’m clean” when talking about STI’s is so common. Personally it makes me cringe when I hear it. Typically when we’re about to be sexually active with a new partner the conversation usually uses the words, “don’t worry I’m clean” in it. Sound familiar?
Hear’s the deal, using the word “clean” when talking about herpes or any other STI is just silly. Firstly it adds a connotation that a person with herpes is a dirty, messy, grimy person. I mean pigeons are dirty not people with herpes.
I’m guessing the words, “I’m clean” come from getting a clean bill of health. But you can have herpes and be a healthy person. I mean, I think of myself as a clean and healthy person even though I have herpes.
What I’m really saying here is referring to your partner as “clean” because they don’t have herpes just puts you in a position of being shameful or like you did something wrong.
You are not dirty because you have herpes. Having herpes does not make you dirty. The only thing that can make you feel dirty is if you let someone. If you let them use the stigma against you.
This brings it to the conversation about telling your friends and family. I’m sure you wonder if you need to or if you should. The next question is how do I go about this so that they understand what I’m going through and so that I’m not looked at as a dirty person.
Yes, only tell them you have herpes if you want to. Herpes is skin to skin transmission so it’s not something that is airborne or not something you’re going to pick up because you’re roommates or your mom’s not going to get it because she does your laundry. An uninfected person has to come into contact with an infected person who has an active outbreak or if the virus is shedding.
Take time to evaluate if the people you’re telling are supportive and will be there for you. Sometimes we just get in the habit of doing things and don’t think about if it’s really the right thing to do. Just remember, the ball’s in your court and only tell your friends and family if you want to.
One of the fears we have in telling our friends and family we have herpes is the judgement that goes along with it. It’s the fear that someone will think you’re dirty or that they’ll assume your lifestyle was a certain way. The best way to break this and get them to understand is to provide data and statistics. One of the things I like to lead with is how common herpes really is. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 3.7 billion people under age 50 (67%) have HSV-1 infection globally and An estimated 417 million people aged 15-49 (11%) worldwide have HSV-2 infection, this means that 78% of the population under the age of 50 has herpes. Something else you’ll want to do is know your facts when it comes to herpes. The best place for you to go is to our FAQ page where you can find answers to a lot of the questions you might have as well as your friends and family might have.
Back to the feeling of feeling dirty and like we did something wrong and that’s why we have herpes really feeds into the stigma. When we apologize for having herpes or even if we don’t use the words, I’m sorry, but act as if we’re remorseful then it’s an opening for our friends and family to potentially treat the virus more seriously than it really is. At the end of the day, it’s just a virus and it’s not serious at all. Oh and most importantly you didn’t do anything wrong. So some things to look out for are if you’re saying , “ I’m sorry to tell you” or “I’m so sorry this happened” etc. You don’t owe your friends and family an apology for bing human and having sex or for having herpes.
At the end of the day I hope you see that you’re not dirty and having the herpes virus does not make you a dirty person. It’s just the stigma that plays into it. And then after looking at how to tell your friends and family I hope you’ll decide if and when you want to tell them. Remember, you don’t have to tell anyone unless you’re going to expose them to the virus. Your roommate or your brother is not going to pick it up from living with you.
As always feel free to reach out with questions. If you’re needing some extra support and need some hand holding the best way for you to join our community. I’d love to see you there.