Hi there! My name is Ella Dawson, and I’m a sex & culture critic. I also happen to live with genital HSV-1. As a patient advocate for people living with herpes, I explored the social stigma of STIs and how our sexual health is shaped by politics, culture and shame. My work has been recommended by sex educators, school teachers, medical care professionals and therapists. In 2016, I even received a letter from Hillary Clinton.

You can find my writing and public speaking about herpes all over the internet. To stay up to date about my work and be among my first readers, please consider joining my Patreon community! When you join my Patreon, you will also get access to LIFE RUINER, my micro-memoir about my experience getting diagnosed with herpes.

Watch my TEDx talk about herpes stigma.

Read the transcript here.

Read my book about herpes.

LIFE RUINER. In 2020 I self-published a micro-memoir about my experience getting diagnosed with herpes and how STI stigma makes us vulnerable to abusive relationships. It is available to my Patreon subscribers here. You can read a free excerpt here.

Read my micro-memoir about my herpes diagnosis.

Explore more resources.

So You’ve Just Been Diagnosed With Herpes. 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.

Why I Love Telling People I Have Herpes. I wrote this essay for Women’s Health way back in 2015. Imagine my surprise when it went viral! It’s still the best distillation of my attitudes toward herpes, and it’s damn funny.

Getting Herpes Made My Sex Life Better. My hottest, truest take.

ASK ELLA: How Do I Tell Someone I Have Herpes? Practical advice to read before you have That Conversation.

ASK ELLA: Should I Date Someone With Herpes? I answered the question that brings people to my website the most.

ASK ELLA: I Have Herpes and I’m Afraid of Rejection. The realistic, no-bullshit pep talk everyone needs.

ASK ELLA: Are Herpes Jokes Ever Funny? Short answer: it depends on who is telling the joke. Send this to your friends who don’t get why you’re so offended by Saturday Night Live’s constant herpes jokes.

Herpes Two Years later: On Sex Without Condoms. Shockingly, I don’t always use condoms now. This essay is about why (and how).

Why I Will Never Support Herpes or STI Dating Sites. I get a lot of questions about STI dating apps like PositiveSingles and similar services. Here’s my hot take on why I don’t use or support these sites. 

Herpes deep dives.

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.

Why I Celebrate the Day I Was Diagnosed with Herpes. Living with herpes can be absolutely brutal — not necessarily because of the virus, but because of its stigma. We should celebrate ourselves for getting through it.  

TIME Magazine Ruined Herpes Journalism. Here’s How to Fix It. My site editor Gabe Rosenberg and I read the infamous 1982 cover story about herpes so that you don’t have to. 

Should you publicly disclose your herpes diagnosis? Herpes+ sexologist Emily Depasse and I talked about how public disclosure has impacted our personal and professional lives, and how to decide if it’s right for you.

How I became internet-famous for having herpes — and why I’m retiring. In 2017, I decided to take a step back from herpes activism to focus on other work and on my mental health.

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? I wrote the rant that everyone with herpes needs to read from time to time.

Why I don’t call herpes a “gift.” The herpes community doesn’t have great language to capture our experiences yet.

Why having a boyfriend doesn’t cure herpes. 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.

Like to watch? Here are some of my press appearances.

Listen to me on podcasts.

Savage Lovecast: I talked about herpes stigma and answered listener questions with the one and only Dan Savage.

Just Between Us: Authors and podcast geniuses Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin chatted with me about my experience getting diagnosed with herpes and how I became internet famous.

Doing It! With Hannah Witton: Sex and relationships YouTuber Hannah and I had a great conversation about herpes stigma, disclosure, and what it’s like to publicly talk about sex education as a female content creator.

Friends 2 Lovers: Lily Herman and Mackenzie Newcomb interviewed me about the abysmal state of STI representation in romance novels.

138 thoughts on “Herpes

  1. Hi Ella, thank you for your wisdom. I was diagnosed with HSV2 at 21 and after watching your Ted Talk, I feel more ready to take on the challenges life throws. I was never one to be ashamed of myself or my status and after hearing you speak so openly about this common ailment I feel even better about my worth. I hope this pandemic is treating you kindly, take care & stay safe.

  2. Very nice site and it’s about time sites like this become available. I’m 68 years old and contracted genital HSV from my second wife. She was very honest and told me in advance but I still got it. That was 28 years ago. That was a short lived marriage for reasons unrelated to the virus. Then met my third wife. I was totally honest with her and told her about the HSV, and the risks. She considered it, and decided she would take the chance. We had unprotected sex which I avoided during and for up to two weeks after an outbreak. It took nearly 10 years of frequent unprotected sex for her to become positive but she did. There was absolutely no blaming or guilt or any issue with that. She had always told me she expected to get it and seeing what a minor thing it was for me, didn’t really care. That marriage ended after 17 years (also unrelated to HSV). After that divorce, I met and fell in love with a very upper class type woman. Another talk and warnings about the risk. She also was not worried about contracting HSV and did not want to use condoms. We had frequent unprotected sex for 3 1/2 years with me avoiding any contact for up to 2 weeks after I had (what by that time) was a very rare outbreak. She did not contract HSV during that time (at least there were no signs or symptoms). That relationship mutually ended about a year ago. Since then I met someone and we got to know each other very well thru calls and zoom calls for 7 months during Covid isolation. Then we met in person and really hit it off. Things progressed so quickly at that first meeting that I had to have “the talk” This time, it did not go well. She freaked out and suddenly started treating me like a leper. Then she started getting herself into a panic and blurted out…”OH, my God, am I going to get herpes from kissing you”? I have never had anything but rare small pin head size bumps for many years now, and the most recent was over a year ago. She said I should have put on the dating site profile that I had herpes. Why didn’t you tell me this earlier etc etc then basically kicked me out of her house. This woman was a Ph.D. English professor! I was totally devastated and my self-image took a big hit. That was a month ago, and I’m still reeling from it. Now I’m fighting to get my confidence back but I know that I am determined to refuse to adopt the attitude that I’m some kind of defective leper or something. After 28 years, and a virus which is essentially dormant in me, my doc agrees that there is a less than 1% chance of me infecting anybody else as long as I continue to be diligent and cautious. Even with my recent horrible experience, I refuse to accept the shaming and blaming and idea that I have anything more than a very minor skin condition that appears once every couple of years for a few days.

  3. Thank you for this blog! Helps me return to my level-headed state of mind when I get overwhelmed with having herpes. I’ve had it for two years now. Rejection from herpes is never easy and even in my relationship right now it’s still not the easiest thing either (referring to your ‘boyfriend narrative’ piece). As a reminder for everyone who lands on this page know that only you can decide your worth. Your partner can’t solve it for you and say it’s ok you have herpes and then you’re healed. Give them time, but make sure they are asking questions and are curious. While my partner isn’t comfortable yet with traditional, vaginal sex, the effort him and I both put in to having pleasure with intimacy shows me that I am capable of being loved. And you showing up for your wants and needs is you showing you are capable of being loved and can be loved. While it worries me in that one day I will want traditional sex with my partner and I’m unsure of where their feelings might be in the future, I will not pressure them to make whatever decision that is – forced yes or forced no doesn’t help anyone. Their body, their choice. Life is full of hard choices, and as long as you stand up for yourself, that’s enough.

  4. Hi Ella,
    I am so happy that I came across your videos and stories. I recently been diagnosed with Hsv1& 2 and i have been miserable for the past few weeks. I just want to feel like my normal self again. Every night i research about herpes and sometimes it overwelms me. Sometimes i cant even sleep anymore. I have been dating this guy for the past 3 years and everything was normal the sex & our relationship. One day I made a mistake when I was drunk and had unprotected sex as with another guy and I regret it so much. Basically he gave me Hsv 1&2 and I told my boyfriend that I have it now. He has been acting alittle different but he says that he still loves me. I told him that I dont want him to have this infection but he doesnt understand that it is highly contagious. I feel so guilty, ashame, disgusted etc. Sometimes i feel like not wanting to live anymore. Can some please give me any advice ? I really want to continue having sex with him but I am scared to ever transmit it to him. And the sad thing is that we would never use condoms and be perfectly fine. Also, does anyone know if it hurts to have sex after being diagnosed with herpes? and will i ever be able to shave again? Also, say if he got HSV from me will we constantly get outbreaks if we have sex?

    1. Hey Angelina, I also had a similar problem, I too contracted this virus while under the influence, at first it was scary and I didn’t tell anyone about it for a long time even my family. I was so down and depressed but I eventually told myself that this isn’t the end for me. I have tried many treatments that didn’t work but eventually I got help. Don’t be down and don’t beat yourself up, anyone can get this virus.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your memorable story Ella. I also have it during these days, and you inspired me and drive my thoughts into positive. I’m glad I was able to see a brave girl with no filter. Keep going Ella!

  6. Hi Ella! I found you a couple months ago and you really inspired me. I am a junior in College and I was diagnosed with type 1 genital herpes almost a year ago now. I lost my virginity in High School and then didn’t have sex again until I got to college. I started having sex with guys that I knew or had been talking to for awhile and they were all spread out over time. I always used protection and I still got genital herpes. I also haven’t had an outbreak since my first one so most days I forget that I even have it! Since then I haven’t had sex or even tried to pursue a deep relationship with the opposite sex. I have really struggled over the past year with getting back into the dating scene because I am terrified no one will want to be with me. How did you get past this?

    P.S. thank you for being an inspiration to me and anyone else with STDs. You really helped me in the process knowing that I wasn’t alone.

    1. Hi! I was diagnosed a few months ago and have struggled with the exact same thing. I’m just out of college and have tried talking to men but told one about my experience with herpes and that i take a pill every day to suppress outbreaks and he goes “yeah you probably shouldnt tell people that” even after i explained that 70% of the global population has HSV 1. Ever since then ive completely closed myself off. You’re not alone!!

  7. I was diagnosed in 2015. Since then I’ve given birth and there isn’t as much natural lubrication going on. Any sort of raw feeling after sex is a guaranteed breakout. I use liberal amounts of lube to try to prevent that extra friction but you really can’t avoid it. I used to shave also but I breakout if I shave now. I do believe not removing some hair is helping cause some extra friction. Is there a way to remove pubic hair without causing an outbreak? Do you have any recommendations on dealing with my extra sensitive skin that breaks out at least once a month? It’s taking over my love life and I know it doesn’t need to. I appreciate your advice.

  8. Hi Ella.
    I just want to say thank you. Thank you for being the bold, courageous, honest, and kind woman that you are. Thank you for using your platform to talk about the things that matter, but that no one else is willing to discuss. Thank you for making me feel human again, and assuring me that an STI diagnosis does not and will never define me as a human being.
    I’m a mere two weeks post genital HSV1 diagnosis, and it has honestly been the darkest two weeks of my life. With no help from my christian conservative parents, I have taken my sexual health into my own hands since the day I first got my period (just one of the many ways in which I was forced to grow up at a very young age). I taught myself everything I needed to know, found my own OBGYN, got on birth control before ever having sex, always used protection.. I’ve worked so hard to make sure that I did everything right, so you can imagine my devastation upon receiving this diagnosis. No one thinks its going to be them, until the day that it is, and suddenly everything you’ve worked for seems to fall apart before your eyes.
    Last night, I found your TED talk. After two straight weeks of nonstop sobbing, seclusion, and anger, you were the first glimmer of hope I had encountered. I now have binge read almost every blog post you’ve written on this topic, and I want you to know the massive impact you have had on me. After spending the last few years teaching myself what it means to be a woman with little to no help from my own mother, and bearing the burdens of young adulthood on my own, you have stepped in as the experienced older sister I so desperately needed. I woke up this morning and took a refreshing breath knowing that I am not alone, and that I am going to be okay.
    So thank you, Ella. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything that you do. This is going to be a long and difficult journey, but knowing your story has given me the motivation to take the first step.

    All my love and gratitude,

    1. Hi Kristina,

      Like you I also have very conservative Christian parents. I was raped back in January of this year and recently experienced my first Herpes outbreak. These past few months have been the darkest and most alone I have felt in my life, and I have only told a few close friends. I recently got a pap smear done and some more blood work but now I fear that my parents will get a bill and flip out on me. Most people would tell their parent right away but having such conservative Christian parents I am afraid of what the reaction will be. Did you end up telling your parents and if so how did you do it, and how did they handle the news?

      Also Ella your Ted talk is one of the firs things I watched when I was diagnosed. Thank you so much for all that you are doing and for being so down to earth.

      1. I’m personally in a situation where I can’t tell my parents about my situation at all. Pap smears are a normal part of a woman’s reproductive health, and you will find a lot of research and statements from gynecologists backing that. In terms of the blood work, that may be harder to hide from the list of insurance expenses. If you’re a dependent under your parents, you can try contacting the insurance company, as long as you have your card/information needed for them to access your file. Also, you can attempt to get your own health insurance through work or independently, and they wouldn’t have access to it.

  9. Hi Ella, genital herpes showed up for me in 2007, I was shocked. I was sexually assaulted in 2001 in Mexico, but would never tell. After being diagnosed I was still with my husband. I wouldn’t have sex after that for fear of passing it to him. I have since been diagnosed with non hodgkins B cell lymphoma. I left my husband 2 years ago. I am very lonely and would like to meet someone again. I think it would be easier to be with someone that has the same problem. I am 63, why can’t there be honest dating sites for people with this problem, sometimes I feel like I am a leapar. It is devistating. I won’t even kiss my kids or grandkids on the lips.
    I started to see someone, but I am terrified to tell him.
    So I told him we should get to know each other first.
    The problem is, this is a small town and if I told him and he didn’t want to go out with me, I would still see him around town.
    So hard.
    Is there any sites out there for people like me?
    Thanks Bones

  10. Hello Ella, I just came across your blog and Ted Talk (I have watched it twice already btw) and I wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences with Herpes. I was diagnosed with Genital Herpes Simplex Type 1 a year ago, so this would be my first year anniversary, and I have been scared ever since, not because of Herpes, but because I realized that I had been this person who always thought that nothing like this could ever happen to her. When I was diagnosed the doctor’s really didn’t give me much information about the Virus, and I still have a lot of things that I need to learn and a lot of questions to ask, but what they mostly did was tell me my diagnosis, and to take Probiotics and to not stress. That was all the information I was given. Thank you again for all the information you have given us.

  11. Hey I wanted to know you guys thoughts about having genital herpes and oral sex! I was recently diagnosed with HSV 2 and I am so scared to be sexually actively again especially in terms of receiving oral sex.

  12. Thank you so much Ella! Your video truly opened my eyes. I got diagnosed with genital herpes in June. It’s been really hard for me to understand everything about my diagnosis. Watching your video made me realize that this diagnosis doesn’t define who I am as a person. And I can have a normal life with this diagnosis. I love seeing all the comments below. It doesn’t make me feel so alone anymore.

  13. Sitting in bed and I am reading your blog only 20 minutes after my diagnosis of having both 1 & 2. Thank you for letting us peer into your amazing and transparent life. Your writings, links, etc definitely has kept me from jumping off a cliff. Thank you.

    I grew up in the 80’s when you would see the magazine and newspaper covers that vilified people who host the herepes virus. This kind of mentality has created Pavlovian damage to people mentally when they find out they have the virus. I keep thinking, why won’t they change the name of it so we can put the history aside of this awful culture of shame? Maybe that’s my way of coping is through activism, just like you are doing now.

    As I write this, I am now within my first 8 hours of my diagnosis and completing my task of reading all your posts; and feel pretty stable and confident that I will survive.

  14. I just watched your video and I am sobbing in the best way. You have changed my whole outlook on this virus. I was diagnosed 2 years ago in January and have been struggling to accept it ever since but after hearing all you have to say I feel a million times better. You are amazing thank you so much

  15. Ella. Thank you. I found out almost 4 years ago that I have HSV1 AND HSV2. So, I’m in the double group. But your videos helped me have the talk about herpes with other people. I just watched your TedX videos and it gives me hope that one day the stigma will be gone.

  16. Ella I LOVE YOUR BLOG. Thanks so much for writing about Herpes and spreading actually helpful and accurate information!!

  17. Well.. let’s see. I’m 21, I was diagnosed with HSV-2 about 5 months ago (2 weeks before my 21st birthday). I’ve been really trying to dig deep to find the information that I need because quite frankly, I feel beyond uneducated. I started out on Valtrex 1GM (once daily, twice for recurrences) due to having 3 outbreaks within the first month. Now, 5 months later, I am on my 7th outbreak, just switched to Zovirax 400 MG- twice daily. But this most recent outbreak, with my best educated guess, has been lingering for close to 2-3 weeks now. I’m still not fully aware or my signs leading up to having an outbreak. As well as simply being able to tell if I am having one or not.. Which is scaring the sh** out of me. I’m just trying to educate myself the best I possibly can. Did anyone else have this many problems at the beginning??

    1. I was officially diagnosed last year. I remember my first OB and going to get looked at by some apparently incompetent people at planned parenthood. I even asked the lady if she was sure it wasnt herpes and she assured me it wasn’t. I had several OB after that and then it spaced out…however last year I got the flu then pneumonia which in turn gave me the worst OB of all time! My first OB was nothing compared to this one but when your immune system is down OBs happen. I feel like after I found out for sure I spent so much time worrying about it and stressing over it that I kept getting them. When I finally started to let go of the worry and stress they became more sparse and I was able to start distinguishing the prodomal symptoms before the outbreak which for me is quite unpleasant…kinda feels like someone kicked me in my vagina and the pain keeps lingering. Hope this helps.

    2. Regardless of your symptoms, yeah…it’s tough. Even without many outbreaks it is something always prevalent on your mind and can take over. Much has to do with stress and your overall physical health sometimes…meaning, like so many of us…own you and your life! May or may not help, but don’t let it define you…you define you. Take control and regardless I promise you that you will feel better for it. No magic pill and we are here for you to help and coach through life…you have amazing things to do, accomplish, and love…it WILL happen, coming from someone who is struggling…but let’s get through this together! Because you are great!!!

    3. Sabrina, I just found out I have HSV 2 yesterday. And I have been trying to find information on how often I should expect a break out and I terrified.
      I’m terrified because I have HSV2 it’s going to be as bad as my first outbreak. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t wee I was in so much pain. I can’t do it.
      When do the out breaks get better? Does the medication help? Are there side effects to it?

    4. I was diagnosed about 2 months ago and I have similar questions. What does an “outbreak” consist of? I had one little sore and since, it is gone but I have had constant but varying itching. There are no sores, just constant itching. I am taking an antibiotic but it is not helping.
      I am not sure if this is what the beginning of an outbreak is? I feel so alone because I can’t find any information about what it’s like after an outbreak. Will it be like this every day? I can’t keep going if it’s like this forever!

      1. I would see if you have a yeast infection. These are very common when taking antibiotics.

      2. I was diagnosed with HSV about a month and half ago I am still waiting to know which type I have I am 18 I guess my bday present was this (the symptoms happened the week of it) I am very confused disoriented and lost I have only had one sore in my gum and I’ve gone onto Google only to be more terrified and lost It only tells you mixed answers mostly I am worried of transmitting it I feel its even more hard not to if I have oral herpes I wish to know if its just on my lips or I have it gingivostomatitis or herpetic stomatitis which is what I read could happen too…I just don’t want to infect my family

  18. This blog is amazing!

    I searched the topic because I am feeling a bit sorry for myself. An outbreak is imminent and there’s nothing I can do to stop it happening. Sometimes it seems like I can stop it by getting an early night, eat better, de-stress and find the Zovirax. It might sound like BS but I have become better acquainted with my body since contracting HSV-2 when I was 21. I’m 40 now.
    As annoying as it is when the virus is active and ‘doing it’s thang’, there are times when I am honestly grateful for it. The diagnosis meant I could no longer be carefree with my sexual health. Whilst I was going through an extended phase of not caring about myself or even how long I remained on this plane of existence, HSV-2 brought home to me that shit does happen, and that it could have been worse. I realised I was not ready to ‘check out’ yet.

    It took a while to believe that anyone would ever want me again. I have had ‘that’ conversation on several occasions. Some went well, others not so. Memories of those rejections still sting if I dwell on them, but I know I did the right thing. I choose to focus on that and the acceptance I received more often than not. ( This almost makes me sound like Don Juan!! I most certainly am not ☺) Just telling the story of how I caught my inconvenient, if potentially life saving friend, makes me chuckle. It was rather unusual. Not one to tell the grandkids though!

    I’ll end this waffle by saying what an amazing blog you have written Ella. I was not and still am not brave enough to stand up and say it as it is, in the face of misinformation, prejudice and downright ignorance. Thank you for making be smile and remember I’m not alone.

    1. Chris…definitely rehomes us and yeah…deal with it. Forces us into healthier choices, not always a bad thing!!! Thinking in the long run it honestly could have saved our lives. Basically screw it, learn from it, and lets move on to the next adventure!!! We got this!

  19. Ella, Thank you! I came across your YouTube video today and just had to have a cry.
    This is what I needed to hear when I was diagnosed October 13 2016. Nearly 2 years ago.
    This is what I’ve needed to hear almost every damn day since October 13.
    The partner who had given me herpes didn’t understand how it worked, and blamed and shamed me for having my first outbreak – until the doctor at the health unit explain that he was the source of my HSV1. My partner apologized to me, but refused to let me bring it up again. Because it made HIM feel bad.

    I had confided in my parents and one of my best friends, but no one knew how to help or what to say. I stayed with that partner until 3 months ago because I felt untouchable by anyone else.
    It has only been recently that I have embraced the fact that, yes it sucks that I have herpes, but my life isn’t over, my sex is still bomb, and I’m less of a ‘threat’ because I am aware and educated.

    I am also committing to breaking the stigma. Your words are so incredibly strong. Thank you!

    – No longer alone and afraid

    1. Educate yourself and like Ella said…we are worth it! It’s now a new screening mechanism for me…meaning I am far more worth the risk, because yeah…we are awesome.

  20. Hey Ella,
    first of all, thanks a lot for all the crucial information you posted on your blog, it helped me big time. But I still got a question, to which I can‘t find the answer anywhere: can I still consume alcohol and caffeine? I just love both of them! And if you would say in moderation, what would you consider it to be ? Have you had an outbreak because of drinking a little too much of both?

    Lots of love

    1. I am doing research about your site. Its a great idea. However so little information or web presence ,,,, hard to know if its fake or not. Wish you had a licence # or some way to check that you guys are real

      1. Same! try to search more information about hellowisp. but not much on the internet. is it a scam?

      2. Hi! Yes we are legit! You can check our LegitScript certification at the bottom of our site (a 3rd party accrediting service that Google uses and requires in order to advertise prescription drugs). All of our physicians and partner pharmacies are U.S. licensed (they can only dispense medication from specific, certified manufacturers), we store all of your data in a HIPAA compliant manner and our payment processing is PCI compliant.

        I hope this helps! Please let us know if you have any other questions.

        wisp support

  21. Hi Ella,

    I’m in a dilemma and want your opinion on this. When I was with my ex, I suspected I had genital herpes because I was having a fever, felling itching and tingling down there, and had blisters on my thighs. I went to the sex clinic. The doctor told me I had a yeast infection and my blisters were just some kind of derma disease and sent me home. Now seven months into breaking up, I took a blood test and found out I have genital hsv1. The doctor also said I could’ve had it for a while. I might’ve given it to my ex because I remember he was having classic primary outbreak symptoms when we were together. I asked him to get tested multiple times because I was concerned, but he said there’s no way he could’ve gotten it if I was in the clear, and it was simply balanitis.

    We have not contacted each other since then. I believe I had given it to him, due to his lack of sexual history and partner before me. However, considering he’s dating someone new and blocked me on all social media, I don’t know if telling him is the best option. I cannot anticipate his reaction and afraid he’d go around telling people and taking revenge on me. Also, If he have it, he would’ve contacted me right? I’m losing sleep over this.

  22. Hi Ella & Womankind! Your work and honesty has helped me start a women’s wellness brand (hellowisp.com), where (all) women have discreet & easy access to their herpes medication (and more). More importantly, this will be a community, led by medical professionals but made up of us, where women can get support on issues that we’re dealing with and the best ways to get through them.

    Thanks for everything!

  23. Hey Ella,
    It took me years to come out as queer. When i was finally making moves towards accepting myself and about to explore the sexual relationships I wanted with women, I contracted herpes from a male partner. Now i feel stuck – there is such little information about there on how to live as a queer woman with herpes. I feel like I won’t ever get to have the sex I want to. I’m trying not to feel defeated and not just turn around back to the closet. Any suggestions? Resources?

  24. Hi.
    Ive had hsv 1 with oral outbreaks for as long as i can remember. Pretty sure i got it from my mom when i was real little and no one knew much about cold sores and hsv 1. Anyway. I am dating someone now who knows that i have it and didnt respond well when i had my first outbreak while we were dating. Anyway, we worked through it all and they have become a lot more understanding. We kiss and make out and all that when i dont have an outbreak, but they wont share silverware or cups or straws with me, or like try my ice cream cone. This lack of sharing was never discussed until i brought it up. For me there is something bonding about sharing things like that when youre dating. For them, they said it didnt seem important but not sharing seemed like a small way to reduce chance of transmission….i want to respect their boundaries, but also i feel like their fear of becoming herpes postive is so far beyond what i have experienced in any other relationship, romantic or not, that it is just sort of hurtful. I guess im just wondering if they are being weird about it or if i need to be more understanding of their fear. Or even just would like to know how other couples handle this. Do you share food/silverware/drinks in times of no outbreak?

    1. Your partner is being ridiculous. Your hurt feelings are totally valid. If they want to be with you, they need to treat you well—in this case, that means not treating you a leper.

  25. Hi I’ve had this for at least 6 yrs while my daughter was born scariest time of my life nw I have 1yr old boy fit n healthy wen I 1st I had this I was terrified because my gender broke out in blisters it look like dead flesh on my body took time to clean up & never heard or suffered since then I just watched ur video would u mind telling me how to keep extra careful I don’t slp around but I train a lot which mean sweat also I travel to different country competitive fight so a lot gets exchanged pls can u help

  26. Hi Ella!

    I was just recently diagnosed with HSV-1 Oral. It’s only been almost 2 weeks since I found out, and I was so devastated I wanted to end my own life, I called my parents begging them to not be mad at me and to forgive me. I knew something was wrong with me cause I was feeling different with myself and I had that gut feeling, so I decided to get tested for all STDS and I meall ALL! I know I sound a little selfish but I am only 19 fixing to be 20 in July and with a 3 year old son! I knew that ending my life would leave the rest of my loved ones would be a selfish thing of me to do. So I prayed and prayed for a miracle to happen and not let this be true, so I was in such in denial that I ended up getting retested. Waiting for those results felt like forever and I still kept praying and praying, I was a bit upset with God cause my results still came back the same. I asked for my range, but the lab work done didn’t contain that info. I’m debating on getting retested again just to know the range. I feel that I have taken this all so well just for it being 2 weeks, sometimes I forget I have it and I tell myself, you are still you! This does not define me! And other days it creeps back into my mind and I start to feel a little sad at the fact this has happened to me. I just recently ran into your TED Talk and you have given me so much hope and strength, I know that this is so common, and I have yet met anyone else who has Herpes. I am currently still with my boyfriend/sons father for almost 7 years. He tested back negative for both herpes, and he has been a huge help and understanding which I could never be more thankful for. I have never felt so low in my life till I got this news, but I’m glad that I’m not alone and you have made me feel more sane about my situation and that’s what I really needed. Thank you for sharing your story, you are one brave woman. Xoxo!

  27. I had herpes simplex 1, it’s been two years and only had that one-time outbreak 2 years ago. My boyfriend loves me that really confuses me all the time, because he is afraid of contracting HSV 1 from me. This year he started to avoid kissing and less sex of course. Ella, if you are kind enough, would you tell me how did your boyfriend deal with it? I saw you on Youtube and found your speech in TED, which is really inspiring to me. Somehow, I feel that I am a harm to my boyfriend, no matter how hard I try to comfort myself for his avoiding behaviors.

    1. Hi MJ,
      I think you should talk to your partner about your concerns but don’t assume his avoidance of intimate/sexual contact is because of your HSV status. If he has explicitly said he’s avoiding contact with you because he doesn’t want to get HSV, encourage him to become more educated and talk about ways you can decrease his risk of contracting it. You did the right thing by disclosing to your partner but it sounds like he needs to decide what he wants. You deserve to be with someone who accepts the risks (which are so low if you take the right precautions) and accepts you.

  28. Hi Ella! My name’s Marissa, I’m 17, and I’m a wrestler. I was diagnosed with Mat Herpes about 2 years ago. I was in a relationship at the time and my boyfriend had broken up with me 2 days after I was diagnosed. We were dating for 2 years and we have known each other for 7. Obviously I was devastated dealing with all of this at the same time. I tried to kill myself twice because I thought there was no hope left fro me. It’s really hard to deal with because I’m so young and everyone around me is very ignorant. I had grow up really quickly and dating certainly hasn’t been very easy, but your posts have certainly helped me a lot. Thank you so much for giving me hope! You’re very inspiring!

  29. Thank you for your TED talk, it was awesome. I have carried this with me for 25 years. I turn 50 this year and have had my share of crap since my diagnosis when I was 25. I have had a huge struggle with this in my life. I have been single for over 20 years. I have learned it all, and never know how to tell a partner. I also don’t want to give it to anyone I love. or anyone at all. I did the same things you did, I just didn’t talk about it. Sometimes I put it in their face, told them and saw the same reaction. I have been rejected after a few dates, or maybe the guy just wanted to try me once and not take the chance long term. I was never that girl The doctors told me well if they don’t accept it they don’t like you enough. I was diagnosed in the 90’s, doctors didn’t know unless you were having an outbreak. I had an outbreak and it was positive, then same symptoms, I got a negative diagnosis so a free pass. No, years later something else happened and I had a blood test when it wasn’t available, it was positive. No turning back. Here is the truth, there is much worse that can happen to each of us. But it is a stigma that people laugh at, lie about and those of us that are honest get burned. You have to have a big backbone to have herpes, that is where it lives, Let’s keep it there and just be normal. It is a stigma, I have had 3 outbreaks in my life….I have had it since I was 25. So 25 years nothing. I guess I don’t get chicken pox that often. Don’t carry this or make it who you are. Cancer happens, people die, this hurts it breaks your heart. It makes us real, and opens us up to be who we are. And those that love us anyway really are deserving of who we are. You will make it to 50 honey, keep going. It doesn’t make you who you are, don’t let it make you. Men will always have an issue with it, but they get over it. If they don’t they just were playing. Someone will come along and see how much this broke your heart. If not you faced it rather then letting it beat you.

  30. Ella, you are an inspiration. I watched your Ted talk and cried. I was recently diagnosed with HSV2. I noticed a sore on my lip, having never had a cold sore, I was in denial as to what it was. I went to my doctor and she said it was Herpes. I got tested. I have read all I can on not transmitting to others and I am still confused. Can a person with HSV 1/2 transmit during silent shedding, the virus to others even without an open sore? If so, I’m so saddened at the thought of not being able to kiss anyone I love out of fear of transference. Can you help me understand.

  31. God I haven’t had a chance to read all through your sight yet, though I am excited to. I contracted herpes just over a year ago and it has dramatically changed my existence, mostly internally (hahahaha….yea, sorry,no pun intended.) Either way I’m stoked this exist. Everyone knows I have herpes, the only way i knew how to cope was to tell every one. So, I did. I don’t really care now, but yea, excited to find others to read their experience.

  32. I just watched your ted talk and it brought tears to my eyes. THANK YOU for being you and for everything you stand for .

  33. Just wanted to say a huge thank you for everything on this site. Last week I was in tears, having found a classic HSV lesion after a month of being under extreme stress. After reading horror stories on forums I was terrified of telling my fiance, who I’ve been with for 5 years and am marrying in 2 months (great timing right?!). I was convinced he’d think I’d cheated or lied to him. I spent 24 hours freaking out and finally calmed down after listening to your Ted talk and reading the stories on here. The moment came and I mumbled out what was going on (with a few tears) and he was AMAZING – confirmed all the things I knew about him before. He was just worried that I was ok, not in pain and not blaming myself. We went to the doc together who confirmed that either of us could have had this for years. We decided not to both get blood tests (though my fiance was happy to), and we’re just going to listen to my body before having sex going forwards.
    Thank you again for being upfront, truthful and taking the stigma away from this unfair virus. I’m hoping my story will also help other terrified people in a similar situation.

  34. Hi. I’m just looking for some Facebook support groups and/or dating sites that I can try for people with herpes. Would love it if you could help !! TIA

  35. I am up all night, suddenly compelled to fanatically research all things herpes as I did 6 years ago when I was diagnosed with HSV2. I am compelled to share my story here within an INTELLECTUAL and EMOTIONALLY CAPABLE space. In 6 years the conversation has changed. I am so grateful. I cry with you. I cry for every woman who has felt this. In triumph and mostly from the grace of others who go to great lengths to love us wholly and take the time to help support healing. People who will spend three years working on healing and loving you. They are out there. They exist. Being honest is a gateway to more honesty. My story is awful, but I share because I have overcome. It is important, as many of us with shock worthy stories have seen the reactions and pause before sharing. My father sexually abused me and first exposed me to herpes as a young child. I remember having “rashes” on my face and hands that hurt as young as three. I of course did not get std tested until much later. And doctors do not assume another white, middle class, person of local status is abusing their baby. But this happens too, far too much. I WAS extremely promiscuous (as follows most upbringings like mine). I did all of the drugs. Interestingly, I did not expose myself(I was careful, somehow, luckily) to any stds during my teenage years of prime activity. I knew I had HSV2 after being date raped by a “friend”. I had terrible outbreaks on my vagina, hands, and on my face. It was a very very painful time, as it also brought up clarity about my past abuse. I dropped out of school (I had a full ride writing scholarship) and continued to do drugs but stopped having sex. I finally began a diligent yoga practice and riding a bicycle(my car broke down) and essentially had nothing but a kind teacher who offered me free classes, a bike, and herpes. I got clean. I met a man who loved me through three years of intense healing and courtdates to protect myself and community from my father. Became a yoga instructor. Started playing music. Started writing again, making and selling art. I am now single and I am not “healed”. But I work with my shame about herpes every day. I learn self care every day. Your words, ELLA, are so true and so real. And as a person who has also risked much and gone through excruciating self exposer locally about incest (another taboo) I deeply respect your work. It is inner work and I have done the same. With much respect, care, and thanks, Chrys

  36. Thank you for being so brave, I live in the DMV
    And have been sufforing in silence… can’t find support!

  37. 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.

  38. 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,

  39. 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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