The stigma attached to having an STD still exists in our society and is one of the hardest things for people with HIV and herpes to have to deal with.
It can cause a lot of emotional distress and at its worst cause depression. It can also create isolation because people feel they cannot talk about their situation.
We asked counsellor Frankie Hall her views about the stigma and she said that there is a stigma attached to having an STD, and it can be at its worst for people in their late 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. For this age group it is assumed “that if you have a sexually transmitted disease you caught it by by sleeping around.
“The older generation and some maybe religious people of any age regard sleeping around as promiscuous.”
She says that while mainstream culture may have eased up a bit in its view of having many partners, values are slow to shift.
As well, education plays a role. “I don’t think some people are very educated into how STDs can be caught and you’ll always have groups in society who like to be ‘holier than thou’ i.e. ‘levelling’. This means they will judge a person, or put a person down for any reason just to make themselves feel better. So I think there will always be a stigma attached to STDs by certain groups.
“Personally, I would give counselling to someone who struggled with feeling of rejection/stigma – they would need to work on increasing their own self-esteem and be themselves and forget and ignore what any one else thought.”
A website like datepositive.net is a powerful thing for people with an STD, because it can help them cope with the stigma. HIV dating and herpes dating websites offer connection, emotional support and a chance to move forward.
The emotional impact of discovering that you have herpes or HIV can, for some people, outweigh the physical health issues one has to deal with.
Many people have found out that they have herpes from a partner or former partner who has not been open about their health condition, and the sense of betrayal can be profound and even damaging.
This hiv dating and herpes dating site has collected stories of site members and used them (with permission and anonymously) with the media. This work has helped break the stigma attached to having and STD. It has also given people an outlet to express their feelings.
One woman told the site that her boyfriend gave her herpes and she was left devastated by the experience and found it hard to trust people. She said that herpes dating site Datepositive gave her a sense of hope about her future and new opportunities to meet people.
A woman who is HIV positive revealed her status to her work manager due to the need for doctor’s appointments, but then found herself being harassed for taking time off work. A man living in Scotland almost became destitute after becoming HIV positive. He became too ill to work and admitted to selling drugs in a desperate attempt to support himself.
To help deal with these issues, Datepositive has secured a fully qualified counsellor, Frankie Hall, to provide support to members. Questions can be sent to Frankie without revealing a name, and the questions and answers are posted on the website blog. A fully qualified sexual health specialist, Dr. Laurence Gerlis, provides answers to questions about health conditions.
One woman said that life became intolerable after she got herpes, and the opportunity to email site members and seek support from a counsellor made all the difference. You can read some of the member stories at www.datepositive.net/blog.
Q. What is you view of online dating? I have not done this before and am concerned about people on the site. It is hard for me to meet new people in my work and this seems like a good idea.
But reading a description and not knowing someone leads me to be uncertain.
Do you think there are things a person can do to improve chances of meeting? - A Datepositive member.
Q. Hi, I’ve just joined this site and discovered that I have a real issue with trust.
My ex partner gave me herpes and I had no idea he had it. He said he did not know and must have been asymptomatic but I am not sure I believe him. Everyone on this site obviously has some kind of STD but I realise this has affected my ability to trust people, especially men.
What can I do to help regain trust again if I want to have a relationship? I feel stuck and don’t know if I can move forward. - A datepositive.net member Continue reading
Q. My parents are very cold to me since I told them I was HIV positive. They said I was irresponsible and let them down.
I am successful in every aspect of my life but do not have a partner. Their rejection has hurt but as they get older I realise I need to sort out this situation and at least visit them sometimes. I am also very lonely and would like to talk to them occasionally. - A Datepositive member.
A. Congratulations on being successful in every aspect of your life. Not many of us can say that.
However, I note that you are very lonely, you do not have a partner and you would like to talk sometimes with your parents who are very cold to you since you told them you were hiv positive. You say you need to visit them sometimes, so maybe that could be a good starting point.
Your parents sound meaningful to you. Perhaps you could tell them this and say that life for you could be so much better with their support and you would very much value this from them. Give them time. If you still feel rejection from them, still believe in yourself and remember your achievements and respect yourself for the person you are.
There are many other sufferers of hiv out there, many good loving and true people. Look on the online (as you are now). Focus on what is right for you and go for it. - Frankie Hall, MBACP, DipCouns., DipEd.