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Interview 46

Age at interview: 20
Brief Outline: At the age of 16 caught genital herpes, and was given a numbing gel and Zovirax. Now uses alternative treatments. At the same time caught gonorrhea, and chlamydia, which were treated with antibiotics. Has also experienced thrush and bacterial vaginitis.
Background: Is a sales assistant who is single with no children. Played by and actor.

More about me...

 

Describes the first signs and symptoms of herpes. Played by an actor.

Describes the first signs and symptoms of herpes. Played by an actor.

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I think the first time that I felt the problem it was the day after my sixteenth birthday. I had a pain and I went toilet and it was really, really stinging. So, I didn't pay too much attention because I thought it wasn't that bad, and then the following day I was going on holiday I was going with my family to Cyprus, and then I noticed on the plane, when I went to the toilet, that the stinging got really bad every time I went to the toilet. And then, when I got to the holiday, now, that's when I think it completely - the blisters really got big. Because then I couldn't walk, I couldn't do anything. I was laid up for, for the first week of my holiday. And I had a cousin with me, and then I confided in her, "I think I might have a problem", and we went to the chemist over there and we tried to get creams and then to try and stop the stinging, but I knew that there was a problem.

Where exactly was the blister?

It was on - it was on my vagina, but it was on the lip part of the vagina and it looked - it looked like, when I was looking in the mirror it looked like a big -someone had cut me. So that's the excuse I gave to my mum, when she wondered why I couldn't walk, why I wasn't coming down to the pool, or why I was in bed all day. I just said I cut myself with my fingernails.

 

Talks about her initial reaction to being diagnosed with type 2 herpes. Played by an actor.

Talks about her initial reaction to being diagnosed with type 2 herpes. Played by an actor.

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When we come back off holiday I went straight to the clinic, and they done the tests and I got the results that it was that' They looked and said, "Yeah, it looks like it more than possibly could be that", but they needed to do a swab first.

And the day I came back - the next day I went straight to the' and good thing that I did because they wouldn't have been able to do the test if I didn't go straight away when the blister's still there. And I went straight and they saw it; they took the swab which was - that was painful as well. And then they invited me back to collect the results. 

So I came back, I think a week later, for my results and then they said that it was genital herpes. If I want to go and see the health adviser, which I'd done, but it's so long ago I really can't remember what he said on anything. But I don't think I paid too much attention to any of it. I kind of went, "Oh, okay", and put it to the back of my mind and then that was it. And then four years later I suppose I'm ready to talk about it now. Because I was so young I think I kind of just pushed it to the back of my mind and I didn't, I didn't think or worry about it. Because when you are younger it is easier to, to just block it out...

So did they say it was herpes type one or two, did they say?

Well type two because it- it would only have been type two, because the person who gave it to me, he never ever gave me oral sex. It was always straightforward sex, and he never had any symptoms

 

Talks about her clinic treatment for genital herpes. Played by an actor.

Talks about her clinic treatment for genital herpes. Played by an actor.

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And did they suggest any treatment at the time?

They gave me a numbing gel, and things like' I remember the nurse said it would be your best friend for the next five days. I was thinking I needed it a whole two weeks ago. The pain went - it you know didn't bother me any more and they just gave me the numbing gel and Zovirax to take, and that was it. Like thank you very much, and that was it.

Was the Zovirax by mouth?

Yes, yes. I can't remember how many times I took it a day, but I didn't do the treatment for too long because it was in the last stages of the blister clearing up so, it wasn't - it wasn't that bad. God I hope I don't make it sound really scary, this thing, because it's not. The first outbreak's always the worst. It's always the most rememberable one. 

 

Says that her cousin was the only family member that knew and supported her. Played by an actor.

Says that her cousin was the only family member that knew and supported her. Played by an actor.

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She was the only one who knew. I didn't tell my mum, but it was really strange, because when we was on holiday and we was all sitting talking, she brought up about her friend who - whose husband had given her genital herpes, and she was saying how she couldn't walk and everything. And me and my cousin was kind of giving each other the eye, like "Oh my God, is she hinting or something"? but she didn't relate anything to me, so I just kept it between me and my cousin, then, but now a lot more people know. Because it's something that I wouldn't say I'm ashamed of, but of course you're choosy about who you tell because some people are very small minded, and they'd just be - they'd think you're this really nasty person, when I'm not.

Was your cousin supportive?

Yeah, she was at the time, she was. Yeah, I mean, no-one came with me to the clinic or anything, but she was. If she wasn't there it would have been a lot harder, because we would sit down and think of excuses to tell my mum, and just - yeah - yeah she was supportive.

 

Says she prefers to take vitamin supplements for prevention rather than use conventional...

Says she prefers to take vitamin supplements for prevention rather than use conventional...

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Oh no, I don't take Zovirax or any of that. I do alternative medicine. So I have my cream, which I get from the organisation, where I work - I work in a health shop, so I get my alternative stuff, like lysine and vitamin C, and they're a lot more healthy and they work a lot better than the other drugs. I think anyway.

Where I work I work in the actual bookshop, and it's all on health, so I read. Vitamin C, zinc and Lysine they've shown to be the best stuff to prevent it, and when it does come, to help shorten the outbreak. And I used to have my outbreak maybe for about a week and a half, but now when I take it, sometimes if I thought, "Oh God it's coming on", then I can stop it by taking about 3000mg of Lysine. And my outbreaks now, when they do come, are a lot shorter. Sometimes about four or five days, so '

What was the drug you said the clinic gave you in the first place?

Zovirax.

That was a drug to take by mouth?

Yes. And I think that's the one you can take every single day to suppress it, but I don't believe in suppressing it. I believe in preventing it and trying to - it's like you prevent it, and then if you, if you in your mind you're completely at ease with it, I think that it won't come and bother you. I'm a very firm believer that with me, food don't trigger it, it's stress.

 

Since having genital herpes she always uses a condom with her long term partner. Played by an actor.

Since having genital herpes she always uses a condom with her long term partner. Played by an actor.

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I've been with him, it will be going on two years, in April. So I thought only out of respect I should tell him. Do you feel you have to wear a condom?

Oh, I always do. I always do, yeah. I'm 'safe sex anyway. Even though I've been with him for years, it's just something I do.

Mm. So that minimises the risk? 

Yeah, because they say about shedding, but I also read, in the organisation that after about three or four years the risks of passing it on without any symptoms is very, very low. And well I've had it for four years or so now.

 

Encourages other young people who are living with genital herpes not to feel ashamed. Played by...

Encourages other young people who are living with genital herpes not to feel ashamed. Played by...

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If a young person said, "What message have you got for me about all this?"

Well that it's not - it's not a bad thing you know, you don't feel ashamed about having it on your lip so why should it be any different? If anything, it's a thing, where, you know, if you've got it on your lips young people are ignorant in the sense that they would be like, "She does this, she does that". So it's really obvious. If you've got it there no-one doesn't know anyway, so it's a lot more - it's a lot - in a sense its not better, but don't feel in any way ashamed or dirty or anything, because it, it's not that, it's just an inconvenience. Same way you know if you get thrush - that's an inconvenience, that's what this is. Sometimes it just comes about for a couple of days and then it goes. If you learned that, it - this is what you've got, then just accept it, then it, I guarantee it won't even count, so'

One thing I really hate, you know, you hear sexual health adverts and you read articles, and they like to put fear into young people about catching these things, but what they need to understand is that this fear leads to stigma and a lot of people - the way that they think, and it's just, you know you think about it'. I heard an advert once, about the 'sex lottery', and you get herpes. It's like so what, you know, why make it into some big scary thing? If you give people the correct information, then they would know about it but they wouldn't look down on other people who's got it. Yeah, they wouldn't look down on other people who's got it, and that's kind of the whole thing that I want to do now, is let people know that it's not dirty, it's not a bad thing that other people make it out to be. It's not.

 

Was shocked to be diagnosed with several STIs at the same time. Played by an actor.

Was shocked to be diagnosed with several STIs at the same time. Played by an actor.

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When did you become aware that you had chlamydia and gonorrhoea was it at the same time as the herpes, or?

Yeah, when I went back to get my results, I was just like - I can't believe what's actually happened. Yeah, he had given me all three. 

It must have been quite a shock for you.

Well considering that I'm, that I was only sixteen and I had only ever had one partner before which was my boyfriend for two years, and I actually lost my virginity to him. So I never knew about sexual diseases, or anything, and the first ever guy I went out with, after this person I broke my virginity to, he done that to me. So - sex hasn't always been at the top of my favourite list. I haven't always had good experiences with it - so'

So, were you treated for chlamydia and gonorrhoea at the same time?

Yeah.  I was on antibiotics for all three, so that was pretty hard for me, and I was going through it on my own. My mum didn't know, obviously. My cousin, she obviously knew at the time. Which is why I think I kind of just blocked it out because I didn't want to be aware that all of these things was happening to me because I wasn't a dirty person. This was my boyfriend, someone that I trusted, and I was with him for quite a few months before anything happened, which gave him the opportunity to go and get tested or anything and he didn't.

In a sense it could have been a good thing that I got herpes, because if I didn't I could have been walking round with chlamydia or gonorrhoea for a very, very long time. And my biggest fear is not ever being able to conceive children. So if I'd been walking round with both of those things, I suppose it can leave you infertile, you know, because I weren't very sexually active after I broke up with this boyfriend, so how would I ever have known?

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