"It doesn’t stop me from doing anything I used to do"

Emma, aged 23*, had her first episode of genital herpes in March 2006.

“When I first realised I had a sore down below, I really freaked out. I went straight to the sexual health clinic at my local hospital where they told me it looked like herpes simplex and took a swab. They gave me a five-day treatment of aciclovir and lidocaine ointment to relieve the itchy pain.

“When I got home, I searched the internet for ‘genital herpes’ but the sites I found gave scary, alarming and very negative information. Ten days later the clinic texted to say the swab test was positive for herpes simplex.

“I’d been with my boyfriend for two years and he was very supportive. I’m not sure if I got herpes from him as he has never had any symptoms. When I was a student I had a couple of partners, so I may have got it from one of them.

“During the summer, I had a small episode which disappeared overnight. It drove me to start worrying again. I then had another small recurrence and after this I decided that I would not allow this virus to take over my life.

“I found out about the Herpes Viruses Association through the web, and decided to give them a call. I spoke about my recent problems and they gave me loads of support and advice, and as much knowledge about the virus as I could take in.

“I’ve learned that life is too short to worry about a minor virus. It’s not life-threatening and it doesn’t stop me from doing anything that I used to do. My boyfriend doesn’t think twice about me having herpes and still loves me for who I am, not what I have.

“There is such a huge stigma behind herpes that makes people hysterical and upset. However, we should treat it like facial herpes simplex (cold sores). No one freaks out about them but they’re exactly the same thing, just on the face.

“My boyfriend always says to me that if he gets an episode, he will use the medicine and wait for it to clear up. He says, ‘Is the virus life-threatening? No? Well then stop worrying and live life to the full.’

“I honestly can’t stress enough how genital herpes does not make him avoid having sex with me and he certainly doesn’t think any less of me.”

* Name and age have been changed.

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