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As Ellie explained, “There was this shitty STD hierarchy,” which ranked curable STIs above herpes, and HSV-1 (formerly known as “oral herpes”) above HSV-2 (formerly known as “genital herpes”), both of which were considered “better” than HIV.
“I just felt like it was used to make people who felt bad about their illness feel better by putting other people down.” Ellie’s not alone in her assessment of STI dating sites as a barren, depressing wasteland.
Ann*, who contracted herpes the first time she had sex, noted that “with [roughly] 20 percent of the population having HSV2 there should be way more faces to click on.” This points to another issue with these sites: whether because of ignorance, stigma, or some combination of the two, many people living with herpes either don’t know about, or won’t admit to, their infection, further fueling the cycle of stigma, ignorance, and shame.
This is not to say herpes condemns you to a depressing, dateless existence.
When Ellie* was diagnosed with herpes in her senior year of college, she was convinced the infection was a “death sentence” for her dating life. “I was being turned down by men who had every intention of sleeping with me until they found out,” Ellie told me over email.