HPV and Herpes: Social Stigma and Marginalization

HPV is the most prevalent STD in the world

HPV is the most prevalent STD in the world and yet, there is little talk about it. This is due to social stigma which is something I absolutely do not tolerate.                    

Social Stigma, according to Wikipedia is: severe social disapproval of personal characteristics or beliefs that are against cultural norms                                               

Social stigma often leads to marginalization. Dang! You've got to love Wikipedia!

With that having been so eloquently stated, I always challenge the “cultural norm”.                                                                                                                                                        

I attempt to go beyond it, above it and achieve more than just the social norm. I freely educate about STD’s and against social stigma of any kind. I have dealt with social stigma in person, on the internet, and in advertising. That is a reason I work with pharmaceutical companies, some support sites and take any speaking engagement that comes my way, in regard to teaching and putting a face to herpes and HPV. I am NOT afraid and have been doing this type of “Public Education” from about 6 weeks after my initial diagnosis of herpes and going to a Support Group and meeting others in May 2000. I went on area television with my very good friend, Gayla and we did not hide our faces.  We were given the option to do that. I proudly labeled myself “Herpes Survivor” with grand results. I absolutely refuse to belittle myself or hide because fate has seen fit to provide me with “gifts” others would see as a blotch or blight on their otherwise perfect existence.

The first “gift” was given early in my life, that being HPV. I was so young but past 18 years old. No one knew or said a thing about HPV. All I wanted to do was not get pregnant. I had never heard of HPV before and I certainly never wanted anything less when we figured out what it was. This was mentally debilitating for me and I suffered greatly with the lack of good or positive sounding information.

The other “gift” being herpes, came much later in my life, because believe-you-me, I wasn’t going in for the “its ok, I’m clean” speech I heard preached by past, future or present wanna-be partners after I dealt with HPV. After that, I was not going back to the treatments of the time and certainly didn’t ever want to have to deal with the emotional issues I had carried for so long ever again because of social stigma. STD's are a real mind bending bad trip, especially when there is no help in sight.

I speak of herpes and HPV a lot in tandem because, as my very good friend at my favorite STD Clinic says, “They are The Evil Twins”.  Viruses of a feather – flock together, Misery Loves Company, and so forth.  Although it is not how these viruses affected me, this tandem diagnosis happens many times a day, in clinics and doctor’s offices all over the planet and people’s worlds are shattered and turned upside down.  Suddenly knowing you are a part of something you made light of or made jokes of because they acqiured an STD. It's also someone else's life changing event. It can be YOUR life changing event.                                                                            

I suggest you Google: STD – Stop, Think, Decide. I believe it will help you or help someone you know. No wait, I promise it will help.

Marginalization is just dangerous.  It would be a pity if this marginalization implies NOT being socially accepted after an occurrence of any STD. But with lack of proper education and fear of speaking about herpes and HPV, that seems to be the train of thought.

I want to say on a public forum that social stigma is wrong, hurtful, accomplishes nothing, perpetuates hate and could one day be YOU!

As an example: My good friend and fellow STD aficionado Miss Gayla, was doing some surfing and education about STD’s on line and one person was very insulting, derogatory and pretty spiteful. This person refused to hear anything she was saying as she was attempting to comfort a newly diagnosed person on line. After a few trade offs of information from Gayla and insults from the other person, Gayla ended something like this: Please keep my e-mail address. With your lack of interest in the truth about herpes and HPV and your terrible attitude – you’re going to need me someday and I will still be here for you despite your behavior today. Before the person could respond, she signed off. With SOME people or platforms, there is only so much that can be done to confront, challenge or influence positive social stigma. Then it is better to go on to those who are willing to listen and learn and be ready if an STD does happen to them.

Since there are about 130 known strains of HPV - good luck finding someone who has not been affected by a plantar wart or a little seed wart on their hands. I have seen and experienced firsthand, that this also lead to marginalization of care and treatment by physicians. Is it fair that a person affected by any sort of HPV would pay more money on insurance premiums because we are considered a health risk? I must remind you that driving over the speed limit is a health hazard too and we all do it. HPV and other STD’s certainly leads to the marginalization in the area of dating and sexual contact , that is, if other people knew, which is WHY most people do not disclose this information if they even know they have been affected by HPV.

Herpes has it’s on own statistics, such as: 1 in 4 people worldwide have an STD. AT LEAST 1 in 4 have herpes or HPV.

Now, time for mental pictures. How many faces are on Mount Rushmore?

Ok. Now pick any 1 of them and you have a visual on this very important statistic.

Why am I speaking so boldly about herpes and HPV now in my public writing? 

Because my Beatitude is: Blessed Are the Peace Makers. 

Because I have always done this type of education and support since someone did it for me.  

Because I have never hidden or shied away from anything that would benefit someone else from my experiences in life, even if they are not my finest moments.

Because my whole recent surgery came as a result of my early exposure to HPV and I am the lucky one.                                                                                                        

Because my friend, who died one week ago at 8:45 a.m., was also affected by HPV and it caused the cancer that took her life.  I will miss her and want to inform all who will listen that herpes and HPV are not leprosy. For one, leprosy can be cured and is a bacterium, but HPV and herpes are viruses and they are smart and can hide and affect a person later in their lives.  I am also not touting vaccines even though in my work environment I give these vaccines every day with much success. Obtaining a vaccine for any disease state is a personal decision and should be weighed carefully against the risks of that disease state.

STD’s are a real heart breaker and so my work and articles on sensitive health issues continue.

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.   Dickinson, Emily>

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Amy Poe Beilach
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Posted on Jun 26, 2009