Stop Blasting Famous People With Herpes

Famous celebrity

It’s 2020, and I am pretty sure it’s a safe guess that you have heard the word herpes, but more specifically, the phrase herpes simplex. Herpes simplex is a ridiculously common virus and is only two of the nine types of herpes that regularly infect human beings. HSV type 1, commonly referred to as cold sores, and HSV-2, is widely referred to as genital herpes. 

These viruses are contracted and transmitted by direct skin to skin contact or direct contact with mucosal membrane surface areas (all the internal pink areas). Some of these areas are the eyes, inside of the nose, mouth, vagina, and the anus.

It’s important to note that even though most will assume that type one is strictly oral and type two is always genital, this couldn’t be further from the truth; they can be anywhere. Fun fact, 50-78% of all new genital herpes infections are HSV-1 {1} and doctors rarely swab test oral herpes infections and just assume they are HSV-1, so who knows what type it is.

When we look at these two viruses under a microscope, they are identical. They share much of the same biology and behavior and are considered to be viral twins. This is why many people can see episodes of either type of herpes occurring in other body locations, not just oral and genital. Ever heard of Mat Herpes?

By the age of two, most people have contracted HHV-7, which is closely related to HHV-6. Again, many have never seen an infection or experience any symptoms—video on HHV6 and seven here. By the age of six, 58% of children have HHV5, and by the age of seven, 50% of children have contracted HHV4, the Epstein Barr Virus. Commonly known as Mono and called “the kissing disease.”

By age 10, you have good ol’ Chickenpox, HHV3. This is also the cause of shingles virus, herpes Zoster. By the age of 25, you have almost certainly been exposed to Herpes simplex one and/or 2. However, I would argue a much sooner age range for HSV-1. 

Regardless of these fun facts, only 1-2% of people who are herpes simplex positive will experience chronic symptoms and outbreaks. The rest of the population of seropositive individuals are completely unaware the have it. Pretty crazy right?

Almost everyone has herpes, including celebrities. 

Not too long ago, I was contacted by someone who is somewhat famous and they wanted to have a conversation about my experience with herpes and the vaccine. It became quite clear as to why they were so curious and it was a pretty good assumption that they had it as well. After a few minutes, that guess became a fact, but I also became aware of this person’s fear of being outed due to tone changes within their voice.

I knew exactly what they felt because many years ago I shared those very same emotions. Honestly, I can’t say I blame them. I didn’t want anyone knowing anything about my herpes status, and I was not ready to divulge that info to anyone, especially in a public way. It was not only the fear of someone telling the world your personal information but also taking away your choice in that matter. A choice that is clearly not consensual.

At least once or twice a month, an article will pop up under the hashtag of #herpes that lists famous people who carry it. Genital or oral, this info can be easily found on any tabloid. I can only imagine how upsetting that would be to be an actor who has finally made a name for themselves only to be blasted all over the Internet for having something as simple as a shared virus that is pretty much everywhere. It’s pretty clear that the line of respect for human beings will fly out the window like a trapped bird and more so the second a person makes a name for themselves and has made a few bucks. It seems quite unfair, and I don’t remember seeing any actor or famous person asking for that…

Here is an example of what a consensual conversation looks like.

Indeed, a person can argue that because herpes is everywhere and it shouldn’t be a big deal, so who cares if you say that someone has it, right? I don’t know about you, but these quick judgments and desires to gossip do not seem to end well for the person being blasted. Whether you’re somebody who works at a deli or you are a well-known Actor, why would it be ok to share another person’s medical information publicly? I would like to think that a person should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to say anything about their own personal situations, regardless of how others may feel about it. 

As an outspoken herpes advocate, I understand all too well that driving down the herpes highway is going to be bumpy and not without swerving around debris. Herpes is an inevitability. A road littered with potholes of fear, judgments, and miscellaneous jagged rocks that throw off your emotional balance with every bump.

In a perfect world no one would care about having herpes, and everyone would understand that 1-2% of people will suffer from chronic symptoms.{2} Simultaneously, the rest of the population (6+ billion or so) are silent carriers and are entirely unaware they carry the virus. Nothing would make me happier than for everyone to realize these facts and to accept them. But apparently, it’s not that easy and its because of one word…

The Stigma

I speak a great deal about the stigma and why it has such a hold over people with herpes. The stigma indeed exists, but it does so because we allow it. At the top, you have shame. The application of this emotion upon herpes is not only debilitating, it is misguided and based on inaccurate perceptions. Examples are incorrect facts, bad internet links, and assumptions that herpes is always caused by sex (along with archaic and outdated ideas about human sexuality). {3}

The stigma is a construct that we allow to take place and its power is rooted in our silence. Part of that power is believing that you are alone and silence is the end result of feeling that way. It should be clear that silence is not always golden, and, in this case, it is the fuel to this fire that keeps the stigma going under full force, like pouring gasoline onto a flame.

I understand the idea that stating the names of famous peoples is an attempt at normalizing herpes by showing how common it is; I get it. One day, I genuinely wish that other famous people would openly discuss it to help normalize it. Still, it seems unfair to share the personal information of famous people without their permission. Isn’t it strange that some people with herpes would shame another for having it or to take away the same choice that we wish we had?

Just saying…

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