Time and time again I find myself talking with groups of people and the same thing happens. The same joke creeps it’s way in. The same casual phrase, light comparison, or witty remark surfaces.
For some reason, our society has made it acceptable to create a mockery out of an incurable illness.
And it needs to stop.
Herpes is not something to be laughed at and made fun of.
It is an illness. It is painful. It is scary.
And it is a painful and scary illness that will never go away.
For some, herpes can be something that interrupts normal activity on a daily basis or is something that has kept them from doing the things that they love for fear of an outbreak or trigger. For others, herpes has been something that has ruined their sense of self esteem and confidence; hindered them from feeling beautiful, wanted, and loved.
And for me, it is something that has made me scared of ever finding love for fear of rejection and judgement.
So every time people decide to make a casual joke about herpes, myself and the 50 million other Americans affected by this illness are reminded that we are different. That we must repress a part of ourselves every time we meet someone new. That we must never feel comfortable about carrying this disease because it is gross, contagious, or somehow our fault that we now live with it.
The more we make a joke of herpes, the more that we ignore the fact that 1 in 5 people in this world are fighting this battle of judgement. Fighting this battle of self-worth and self-love.
Herpes is common, and it is estimated that 90% of the population is infected with herpes and doesn’t even know it. So even further, you are likely to interact with people with herpes more than you ever could think of or will ever know.
When you joke about herpes, you are joking about the hard struggle someone around you has had to experience. You are joking about the day their life was changed forever. You are joking about pain, confusion, fear and rejection. You are joking about someone’s life. Someone’s heartache. Someone’s well-being.
And it’s not okay.