was sitting in my doctorís office crying, and I could barely
choke it out.
think I have herpes," I said between sobs.
still feel the paper on the exam table. I recall the chilly
breeze and how vulnerable I felt with my feet in stirrups. I
can picture the ceiling I so acutely examined while waiting
for my results, which confirmed my fear. And I remember the
slight comfort I felt when my doctor told me that her office
is a safe space and that I could cry all I wanted.
picking up a prescription, I walked back to the train in a
daze. I felt ruined. How could I have let this happen? Iíve
been a safe-sex advocate for years. I took classes on sexual
health. I interned at Planned Parenthood. And I know that we
had used a condom.
the frustration and pain, I felt soiled. Though my outward
appearance hadnít changed, I felt ugly. I thought no one
would ever love me, or even sleep with me, again. And I was
pretty sure I was going to die alone.
slowly I started feeling better emotionally. Months passed,
and eventually I stopped feeling so dirty. I read as much
information as I could find, and I immersed myself in social
media and blog posts by people in my situation.
told my friends, I found encouragement and support.
found out that Iím not in this alone.
transmitted infections (STIs) are common. About one in six
people ages 14 to 49 have herpes, and virtually all sexually
active people have human papillomavirus, or HPV, according to
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About
1.4 million cases of chlamydia were reported in 2014. The CDC
also estimates that there are about 20 million new STIs in the
United States each year.
so common that sometimes I forget about the massive stigmas
attached to them.
to Internet trolls to remind me.
#ShoutYourStatus was trending on Twitter. People with STIs
used the hashtag to connect with one another for support. It
was meant to be a way to talk freely about STIs, but it didnít
take long for the harassing trolls to take over.
called a degenerate, a ho and an idiot. From the safety of
their keyboards and identifiable only through their Twitter
handles, they labeled me disgusting, gross, stupid and fat.
According to them, I should never be allowed to spend time
with children. They told me I deserved an STI because Iím a
promiscuous whore, a "disease-riddled c ó" One
even told me I deserved "a (expletive) firing
received abusive tweets for days afterward. In the span of
four days, I blocked 50 people on Twitter. The amount of hate
and disdain was unlike anything Iíd ever experienced. A few
other women I know who are outspoken about their STI
conditions made their accounts private to protect themselves.
ultimately, the troll approach backfired. Their goal to hurt
me or silence me didnít work. All it did was reinforce the
fact that STI stigma is real. Their scorn made me want to
speak up louder than ever before.
others with STIs, know this: You have worth. You are deserving
of love. You are more than your diagnosis. And youíre not a
bad person because you have an STI.
days youíll feel OK. Other days youíll feel as if the
world is caving in on you. But youíll make it through. Lean
on the people who love you. Join a support group. Go to
therapy. Allow yourself to be happy again. I know itís
difficult, but most times the stigma is worse than the
way to prevent STIs is to educate people, and that means
talking about it. So please, donít let anyone silence you,
whether itís in person or online. And donít listen to the
people who say hurtful things ó especially the trolls.