IMG_2249I was diagnosed with genital HSV-1 in May 2013. I write about what it is like for me to live, date, and be sexually active with the heavily stigmatized STI.

I have also appeared on MTV’s Girl Code, HuffPost Live, and the What’s Underneath Project. You can also listen to me on the Savage Lovecast with Dan Savage.

Watch my TEDx talk about herpes stigma!

Read the transcript here.

Essays on my blog:

So you’ve just been diagnosed with herpes. Start here! I cover all the basics in this post: what you need to know, who you need to tell, how to protect your partners, where to find community, and the pep talk you definitely need right this minute.

My characters care about safe sex because I have to. This was the first time I put in print that I have herpes. This essay was my take on a debate about whether or not characters in erotica should have to use condoms.

What happened after I told the Internet I had herpes. This is how everyone I knew reacted to me going public, from my parents to my exes.

The conversation that never happened: On herpes and abusive relationships. How I got diagnosed. We need to talk about emotional abuse and STIs.

herpes virginity leavesHow I lost my post-herpes virginity. Having sex after getting diagnosed for the first time is scary! This is how it went for me.

Herpes two years later: On sex without condoms. Shockingly, I don’t always use condoms now. This essay is about why (and how).

To the teenage girls who have herpes. This world tells teen girls they’re worthless. Don’t listen.

Why should I date someone with herpes? A rant we all need to make from time to time. Stop asking me this question. Send this to anyone who is rude to you.

Why I don’t call herpes a “gift.” The STI community needs more language to describe our experiences, but this is slang I can’t get behind.

The badass women of TED. What happens when you have a herpes outbreak at a TED conference.

A lesson in herpes stigma, via Facebook comments. Because BuzzFeed’s readers are pretty terrible people.

Dear Internet commenters who really don’t want herpes. Sometimes you gotta talk back to the trolls.


Herpes Interviews

  • That wrestler I dated. This long conversation wound up being intense and personal. My ex and I talked about what makes sex unsafe, and if he worried about contracting herpes from me.
  • The ex I had to call. Getting diagnosed meant calling my old high school sweetheart to ask him to get tested. It was terrifying. This conversation is about how we remember that phone call.
  • The best friend. My college roommate had a front row seat to my diagnosis… and to the abusive relationship I was in at the time. She and I gabbed about that, as well as Vulvar Vestibulitis and why adults should talk about sex before having it.
  • The guy from the bar. I met a really nice dude at a bar like it’s 2004 or something! I told him I had herpes that night, we had sex the next night, and we’re still having sex now. Hurrah.

For MTV Founders:

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For Women’s Health:




On herpes journalism:

TIME Magazine ruined herpes journalism. Here’s how to fix it. My site editor Gabe Rosenberg and I read that 1982 cover story about herpes and it was goddamn awful. We dissected it and thought about what good herpes journalism would look like.

Why having a boyfriend doesn’t cure herpes. Please, please, please stop publishing essays about how you finally found someone who would love you despite your herpes diagnosis. There are other ways to heal, and there are better ways to challenge stigma.

5 rules for better herpes journalism. Because seriously, can we stop telling the same tear-jerking bullshit inspirational story? Oh my GOD.

RANKEDHeadlines on the herpes WHO report: RANKED. The World Health Organization discovered 2 out of 3 people have herpes. The Internet lost its mind.


Why we need clicky, accessible herpes writing too. Some thoughts on writing about herpes for a mainstream audience, including poppy listicles.


66 thoughts on “Herpes

  1. Reading your posts made me cry. I was diagnosed nearly 2 years ago and only just now realized I’ve spent this whole time punishing myself.
    Resigned to sitting in the corner and watching the rest of the world partner up and bear children, I pushed away the one love interest I really cared about. Assuming, as I’m sure many have, that I would be rejected and judged for my condition.
    I let this STI define me. Fuck that shit.
    Thank you, Ella, for reminding me that I am a person. I am not defined by this. That I can still live my life the same as before I was diagnosed.
    I’m going to embrace my life and own this shit.

  2. I Just Want To Say Thank You For Being The Voice I Love Everything That You Stand For And Everything That You Are Doing Thank You So Much Ella,

  3. Hi Ella, your work has helped me so much through my own diagnosis and I really love how informative you have been. Something has been bothering me today and I’m not quite sure where to go or who to talk to, but today on CNN a guest compared combating ISIS terrorism to treating herpes and this really upset me. I wanted to know your thoughts about this.

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