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For the most part, her former sex partners also have been supportive.While writing the book, she contacted them all to let them know she had never told them about having herpes.Because HSV-1 is most often transmitted through nonsexual contact in childhood, it has become known as the “good” herpes, Loanzon notes.But with the prevalence of oral sex, HSV-1 is involved in a growing number of genital herpes cases, says Loanzon.Eliminating the stigma is necessary to promote the open, informative discussions necessary for individual and public health, says Jenelle Marie Davis, founder of the website the STD Project and spokesperson for Positive After contracting herpes at 16, Davis says she, too, felt like a modern-day Hester Prynne, with some family members shunning her and school peers spreading rumors about her.Most people don’t stress about the virus itself, she says.
But through work with a life coach the past two years, she has come to realize the ways she wasn’t just hurting other people but jeopardizing her own future happiness by having the disease “hang over my head.” In its “Herpes 101” chapter, which offers basics on the virus and its transmission, Loanzon illuminates how her nondisclosure and misunderstanding of the disease left her and her partners vulnerable.
She also dated men, then married, but neither the marriage nor the relationships worked out.
She couldn’t let go of her private shame and hid it from subsequent partners. Loanzon, 36, no longer believes having herpes makes her a bad person — especially given that she’s far from alone.
But he wrongly assumed he couldn’t transmit the virus because he didn’t have an outbreak at the time.
In fact, the virus can be spread through skin-to-skin contact during oral, vaginal or anal sex, even if there is no visible sore present, Loanzon says. Traditionally, genital herpes is caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), whereas oral herpes comes from herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).
Hearing the diagnosis from a campus nurse she felt she’d been branded with a 21st-century version of the scarlet A.