That moment of finding out you've been diagnosed with genital herpes can feel overwhelming. Aside from the shock of what this means for you physically, the mental toll can also weigh heavily. You may feel down on yourself and worried about the perception others will have of you — but the thing is, your life doesn't have to be turned upside down. These days, there are ways to not only find relief (including over-the-counter products like FemiClear® for Genital Herpes Symptoms, which can help ease symptoms alongside your current Rx treatment), but to take back control of your body in the process.
Due to the lack of information and transparency surrounding herpes, misconceptions about the virus have thrived. Namely, that it only happens to a "certain" type of person, isn't treatable, or will disrupt your sex life for good, none of which are true. A number of doctors and advocates have been working for years to fight the stigma surrounding herpes.
"Our job is to break that barrier," says Dr. Jessica Shepherd, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist. "When we give a diagnosis to someone, they're completely devastated. We let them know that they're not alone and that this is something that can definitely be treated."
Herpes is more common than you think.
A lot more common. In fact, 1 in 6 women between the ages of 14 and 49 in the United States have been diagnosed with genital herpes, according to the CDC — and an additional portion of the population is unaware that they have it. For non-Hispanic black women, herpes is even more prevalent, with about half having the condition. As shocking and lonely as a herpes diagnosis may feel, it's a feeling millions of women know well.
One of those women is Jenelle Marie Pierce, executive director of The STI Project and sex educator, who learned of her diagnosis in her late teens. Prior to contracting the virus, her perception of those with herpes reflected myths often told, especially to young people.
"My viewpoint was that only certain kinds of people contracted it," says Pierce. "All my ideas or perceptions around herpes and people who have herpes was totally stigmatized, all inaccurate of course, not to mention wildly harmful and shaming. I was incredibly ignorant and didn't have a lot of knowledge of how common it is and how all types of people contract it."
Truth is, hundreds of millions of women around the world live with genital herpes, which is largely, but not always, caused by the viral strain known as HSV-2 (short for herpes simplex virus type 2), according to the World Health Organization. Many people are unaware that herpes simplex virus type 1 is what causes cold sores, but even fewer know that it can also be transmitted to the genital area through oral sex. In recent years, the percentage of genital herpes diagnoses that are caused by the HSV-1 virus has increased. "I like to reassure patients that it's the same virus as a cold sore, and we definitely don't walk around treating people any differently when they have a cold sore," says Dr. Shepherd.
This lack of openness surrounding herpes can make the experience exponentially worse for those who contract it. "Everyone tells me their stories now," says Jenelle Marie Pierce. "It's something that I have to keep to myself when they're sharing something very personal and intimate about themselves, but I wish everyone knew how common this is and how it impacts all different types of people, all types of behavioral and sexuality styles and identities."
Treatment is easier than we’re led to believe.
Choosing to seek treatment for herpes is a major step in managing your symptoms. Your doctor will likely prescribe an antiviral medication, which can be helpful in reducing the length of your outbreaks as well as their frequency.
Still, even a few days of dealing with the discomfort of an outbreak feels like forever. New over-the-counter product, FemiClear for Genital Herpes Symptoms, offers an all-natural and organic treatment that works hand in hand with your prescription to help provide fast relief for herpes. When used in addition to antiviral treatment, FemiClear has been reported to result in less severe outbreaks, reducing itching, pain, and burning symptoms in 90% of women. FemiClear killed over 99.9% of the herpes simplex I and II viruses during an in vitro laboratory testing. If you're looking for a proven product, FemiClear can be found at your local CVS in the personal intimacy aisle (or on CVS.com, Target.com, and Amazon.com), so it's easy to get when you need it most. You can take it at the first sign of an outbreak and throughout your outbreak to help manage symptoms.
It’s all about embracing self-care.
While it may be daunting, it helps to look at the treatment process as an act of self-love. "I think the most important thing is to be gracious with yourself," says Pierce. "And to know that whatever the misconceptions you have around herpes and what this means for your dating and sex life is likely all incorrect. It's all a product of stigma and a lack of information and comprehensive education across the board."
Along with using medication and treatment products like FemiClear, managing herpes begins with tuning in to your body. "I usually tell people when they go for their annual exam just to get a screening," says Dr. Shepherd.
"It's just a barometer of your health. You're the protector of your pelvis and you really should be aware of what's going on at all times."