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I actually got a lot of free drinks with that joke.

Even in the rare case that a character gets an STD on television, it is almost always gonorrhea or chlamydia, which are easily curable, and they learn a very special lesson about being “promiscuous” or getting tested more frequently, and then they move on with their lives.

I’m going to talk a little bit about where that stereotype and that powerful social stigma comes from.

I’m going to talk about three sources; there are more, but these are the ones that convinced me I’m human trash when I got diagnosed. I received abstinence-only sex education, which consisted of being told that I should just not have sex if I wanted to protect myself from STDs or pregnancy, and as someone who is not planning to wait until marriage, and will probably have sex later this weekend, that message was never really going to work for me.

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I told my parents right away, I told my partners, I told my roommates, I told my roommate’s friends who were like, “How did I get into this conversation?!

It typically causes cold sores, or “oral herpes,” but it can also cause genital outbreaks, as it does in my case. That is, I believe, one in six people, one in five women, and one in four New Yorkers—which I love telling my friends to scare them. And there’s also herpes gladiatorum, I think I’m pronouncing that right—by far the most badass named strain of any STI. It commonly impacts wrestlers, high school and college wrestlers, who get it from each other during wrestling matches, or from the mats themselves, which is gross, because no offense, teenage boys are disgusting and we should probably be washing our wrestling mats anyway when you take herpes out of the equation.

There’s also, and this is really weird: chicken pox and shingles are in the herpes family of viruses.

Obviously they’re not stigmatized, and they’re not sexually transmitted, unless you’re just really inventive.

So, rewind: I’m twenty years old, I’m at the end of my junior year of college, I’m so looking forward to being a senior, I’ve just gotten this earth-shattering diagnosis, and I learn that two in three people in the world have herpes (at least the strain that I do; even more than that have other strains).

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