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How To Handle The Shock Of A Herpes Diagnosis, From A Woman Who’s Been There

She's been there, has it under control, and can help you feel better in every way, too.

Women's Health

This article is in partnership with FemiClear.

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.

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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."

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Featured image by Nappy.co

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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