It’s Okay to Have Herpes (Part 1)

It's Okay to Have Herpes (Part 1

Guest Writer: Anonymous 

Opinions are their own. 

I remember a very particular instance last winter, when I was at a club, dancing away and having a good time. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a guy dancing with an acquaintance of mine, but he had a visible cold sore on his lower lip. He was trying to kiss her, but she was resisting (To this day I am not sure if she resisted due to his cold sore or for other reasons). My eyes widened, and as soon as the two of them had stopped dancing, I told her that she better have not kissed him with that huge cold sore on his mouth. “He could have given you herpes,” I distinctly remember saying, with such a distain for the word that it was difficult to even say it. “I’m just looking out for you,” I finished my thought, as though it were some justification to protect her from the virus. That was the first real instance I realized that I was scared and disgusted by the thought of having herpes anywhere on my body. In retrospect, I remembered a time when I let someone borrow my lip balm without thinking about it, and I soon became paranoid I was going to contract herpes. I was happy to not have herpes, and was repulsed by the idea of ever having it.

This disdain for herpes is widely common in Western society, but it has actually only been around for a few decades. In 1975, the pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome created the first antiviral medication to lessen the symptoms of the herpes simplex virus. In order to sell their medication, the company used the psychological strategy of “disease mongering”, which is convincing a demographic that a common and minor disease or illness is actually rather shameful or embarrassing to have. Essentially, Burroughs Wellcome advertised that it was okay to have “cold sores”, or the oral strain of the herpes simplex virus, HSV-1. However, they exclaimed that the genital strain of the herpes simplex virus, HSV-2, was a shameful disease that should be treated immediately. Their marketing was successful, and the stigmatization of genital herpes, and herpes in general, exists more than ever.

For years, I was what I would refer to as a “herpes hater”, until the day came that I contracted herpes. At first, I thought I had a urinary tract infection due to frequency and pain when I went to pee. I had read that UTIs were common in women, and can happen spontaneously. I had also had a sexual encounter about 5 days beforehand, and I had read that UTIs could occur from sex as well. When the pain did not subside and more symptoms occurred, I knew something else was wrong with me. Immediately having this realization, I started bawling into the arms of my roommate. At first, I was mad at the person who had “given it to me”, for thinking they had withheld information of knowing they had something. Shortly after, I was angry with myself, thinking that I was stupid and irresponsible. A million thoughts were rushing through my head, and none of them were positive. I told myself at first that even though two forms of birth control were used, that there was still a realm of risk that I had not considered. I thought I deserved it for not thinking through all the consequences. I saw myself as undesirable, and that any potential romantic partner would leave me once they found out.

After finally going to health care clinic and seeking professional help, I had received my test results two or three days later that I had contracted HSV-1, the oral strain. At first I was confused by these results, but then it immediately dawned on me that I had oral sex without any barrier, and that’s how I contracted it. I had never known anyone that actually used dental dams for oral sex, and I would have never considered that for any of my sexual relations. After this realization, a feeling occurred within me that could all be traced back to the Burroughs Wellcome pharmaceutical company. That feeling was happiness. I did not have the genital strain from having sex with an irresponsible partner. I merely contracted the oral strain of herpes from someone who is prone to cold sores, which was a lot of people. This feeling of happiness lasted a day or two, but then another realization dawned on me. It did not matter if I had the oral, genital, or some kind of mutant strain that was unknown to humans. I had herpes, and I was going to have it in my body for the rest of my life.

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Skin Cancer: Not Just a White Persons’ Disease

 

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The truth is that anyone can get skin cancer, so protect your skin. Photo by John Steven Fernandez.

Last semester I took a biology course called, genetic diseases. One morning my class had a discussion over skin cancer, and my professor made the comment that “anytime a person’s skin color changes, as a result of exposure from the sun, they’re mutating their DNA. And, therefore, they are increasing their chances of getting skin cancer.”

I had to admit, I thought I was safe from getting that type of cancer. I have a light/medium brown skin tone, and never received a sunburn. However, just like anyone else, my skin color darkens after being out in the sun for a long period of time.

In our society there seems to be a myth that people of color cannot get skin cancer. Caucasians are the primary victims of skin cancer, but people of color are often diagnosed with skin cancer in later stages of life.

There is a reason for that.

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Take pride in the skin color you have. Photo by Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Non-caucasians produce more melanin in the epidermis of their skin. Melanin is a dark-brown pigment that acts as a protector from the sun. The more melanin one has, the darker their pigment. For people of color, it takes a tad bit longer for harmful mutations to arise that may result in cancer.

I’ve heard many people with darker skin boast that they never have to put on sunscreen because the sun cannot harm them.

The truth is that the sun can damage all skin types, and that anyone can get skin cancer.

Take pride in the skin color you already have, but also protect it. No matter what your skin color, put on some sunscreen before going out on a scorching summer day.

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Too Gay to Diagnose

HEALTHY BENEFITS

Image Zackary Carpenter realized he had mono in early September after his liver and kidneys started to fail. Carpenter believes doctors are not given enough training treating gay men. Screenshot from Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Guest Writer: Zackary Carpenter (@zackmacg)

Zackary Carpenter currently studies magazine journalism at the University of Missouri. He is from Blanchard, Okla. just south of Oklahoma City. Carpenter likes video games, science fiction, beat poetry and various forms of music. Opinions are his own. Place close attention when marked (ATT:)

When I was 19 years old, my liver and kidneys began to fail and my muscles started deteriorating. My blood was extremely toxic and I had a severe headache. I felt like a Centaurian slug was digging into my head, and I did not know where the hell Spock was. This is the story of how I learned that doctors know very little about gay men, and what they learned…

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