Is this stigmatisation of genital herpes?
The Sun recently published an article telling the story of, Marquita Church, a young woman with genital herpes who chose to have unprotected sex with eight partners even though she was aware of her status. She claimed that most of her sexual partners were aware of her status, while some didn’t even ask about her sexual history. Although I don’t quite know why this is newsworthy, I can see why it was published - it’s scandalous. It’s also completely ridiculous and once again, portrays a skewed view of genital herpes in the media.
According to the article, Church came to the conclusion that it didn’t really matter whether she had the virus or not, because the men that wanted to sleep with her didn’t care whether or not she had it. She also claims that it’s due to a latex allergy that she chooses not to use condoms and most of the men she has sex with don’t really mind not wearing one. She does, however, claim that she felt like she had let her parents down, after they had to rush her to the hospital with a high fever and symptoms of a very extreme outbreak, so extreme in fact, the article claims that it was the ‘worst doctors had seen’.
One of the main issues I have with the story is the fact that it gives the impression that genital herpes is associated with sexual promiscuity and that it can only affect those who choose to live in a certain way and tarred as this ‘dirty disease’. Genital herpes affects many people, but it’s one of those stigmatised conditions that people are really afraid of. If you’ve ever read anything written by the Herpes Viruses Association, you’d know that one of the main elements that people with the condition need to come to terms with is the stigma surrounding the condition. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are far more common, however because they are curable, they have somewhat less of a reputation. Just like it can take only one sexual encounter to contract these infections, this is the same with the herpes virus. This article and many others like it makes it seem like genital herpes will cause intense and continuous outbreaks, but many people with genital herpes hardly notice they have the condition at all.
I also have an issue with the fact that the article is written on the premise that we are assuming that all the people she is having unprotected intercourse with are completely free of sexually transmitted infections themselves and that she has no need to protect herself? There is more than just genital herpes to guard against. What about HIV? I worry that the prevalence of STIs, not just genital herpes, is the fact that many young people today, like 19 year old Church, are claiming that they enjoy having sex with multiple partners, when they are really using sex as some kind of confidence booster. If we were really that interested in our own welfare and enjoyment, shouldn’t we be taking all the right precautions to ensure our future health?