Herpes Stigma and it’s impact on mental health.

Herpes: Ending the stigma and its impact on mental health by temple obike

Having witnessed first-hand the negativity and life-drowning potential a positive herpes test result could have on an individuals life is the main reason for this piece. I remember sitting with a gender mixed group of very enlightened individuals about 5 years ago who had made an offhanded joke about the possibilities of someone having genital herpes.  The laughs that ensued were haunting because it was behavior like this that contributes to the stigma. That got me thinking but little did i know that its prevalence was going to quadruple and the effect trickle into my practice in recent times.

Sitting across partners who accuse their other half of ruining their lives by infecting them with herpes has become very common. Asides from this the severe depression and suicidal intent which follows this reveal is the worrisome part. This is all due to the stigma associated with this health condition.

Where does this stigma come from?

The media and pop culture has played a key role in branding this condition. People who have herpes have come to be seen as individuals who have little or no respect for hygeine while others simply view them as individuals with loose morals. This was not hard to imagine because a google search for the word Herpes” in 2015 found more than 600,000 matches but these matches had dirty used in the same sentence or context as herpes. Urban Dictionary searches have also contributed in worsening this because it referenced a stigma against an individual who hung out with an unhygienic person.

The effects of this stigma on mental health and social perception

The stigma associated with herpes has serious impact on the social perceptions and this has contributed to the secrecy in which this health situation has constantly been shrouded in. Below are some of the negative consequences of herpes stigma.

  • It puts the mental health of the individual under constant stress, increases depression and other emotional disorders.
  • It affects the health leading to a further deterioration because the individual is less likely to seek out a diagnosis and treatment due to the stigma.
  • It is bad for the society because the more we stigmatize victims, the more they refrain from getting help. Unfortunately, this does not allow them learn the various means of curbing the person to person transmission. This is the singular reason Herpes infection statistics have been soaring.

    Kindly go and get medical attention if you think that you might have herpes, another sexually transmitted infection (STI) or genital infection. Most of these conditions can be treated but will worsen if they aren’t treated. And they can cause serious issues down the road—like decreased fertility or birth defects. Go beyond the stigma and protect your loved ones around you.


    If there was a time in human-kinds history to avoid hooking up with random sexual partners from dating apps, kissing just anyone, having extra-marital affairs or go down/head up in unverified spots, it’s now – Temple Obike
    Below is an excerpt from a WHO report;
    A 2015 World Health Organization report mentioned that more than 3.7 billion people under 50 have the highly-infectious and incurable herpes virus that causes sores around the mouth and sometimes on the genitals.There are two forms of the herpes virus and both are most often transmitted without symptoms, but for those stuck with the lifelong infection, painful and embarrassing sores can be recurring.Two thirds of the global population under the age of 50 are infected with the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which tends to cause cold sores.HSV-1 mainly causes cold soars and blisters around the mouth, as opposed to HSV-2, which is almost entirely sexually transmitted and causes genital herpes.


    2022 and Now;

    There has been a significant increase in the number of men (and women) patronizing escort sites or having multiple sexual partners. This has by far worsened the spread of this silent yet deadly infection. Infact, asides from HIV/AIDS, the discovery of Herpes has been the second STI that has necessitated many clients opting in for health therapy.


    Symptoms of Genital Herpes

    The appearance of blisters is known as an outbreak. On average, a first outbreak will appear 4 days after contracting the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, it can take as little as 2 days, or as much as 12 days or more, to appear.

    General symptoms for men include blisters on the:

    – penis

    – scrotum

    – buttocks (near or around the anus)

    General symptoms for women include blisters around or near the:

    – vagina

    – anus

    – buttocks

    General symptoms for anyone include the following:

    -Blisters may appear in the mouth and on the lips, face, and anywhere else that came into contact with areas of infection.

    -The area that has contracted the condition often starts to itch, or tingle, before blisters actually appear.

    -The blisters may become ulcerated (open sores) and ooze fluid.

    – A crust may appear over the sores within a week of the outbreak.

    -The lymph glands may become swollen. Lymph glands fight infection and inflammation in the body.

    -The viral infection may cause headaches, body aches, and fever.


    The Facts

    Research has shown that 1 in every 4 individuals has HSV-1 or HSV-2 contacted through exchange of bodily fluids, unprotected sex, kissing or skin to skin contact. This simply means that it’s a 7 out of 10 chance at infection.

    * 1 married individual having an affair with 1 person has a 2 out of 4 chance of contracting HSV 1 or 2

    * 1 single individual sexually active with 1 person has a 2 out of 4 chance of contracting HSV 1 or 2

    * 1 married individual having an affair with 1 person with multiple sexual partners has a 3 out of 4 chance contracting HSV 1 or 2

    * 1 single individual sexually active with multiple sexual partners if fully exposed to contracting HSV 1 or 2.

    On a closing note, I see the impact this has on families daily. It’s effect on the state of mental health and intimacy in marriages or between couples.

    Hook-ups, multiple sex partners, affairs etc. are all contributing negatively to the spread of this infection. A more disciplined approach to life and living could become the first real solution to curbing this silent problem.


    Written by Obike Temple.
    Temple Obike is a licensed marriage and family therapist, speaker, author and psychotherapist who has counseled over two thousand clients comprising of couples, individuals, abuse victims (substance, physical, emotional and sexual) and grief-stricken clients. With over 100,000 in-counseling minutes (1,000+ hours) accrued in practice. He runs his private psychotherapy & counseling practice out of Lagos, Nigeria and has counseling centers in Abuja and Port-Harcourt. His practice also provides options for both online and on-site services. His private practice has positively empowered lives through his online counseling, podcasts, Employee Assistance Programmes, Trainings, free advisory services and free online materials.  Readership of his articles also receive a growing number of visitors alongside subscriptions to his email newsletter at templescounsel.com. His passion for empowering and uncovering the secrets to lifelong marriages and personal development led to his new book titled “Soul Bodega” available on amazon and across other online and traditional stores.Never give up on yourself! You are a journey happening through various destinations.Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit our website for more info!


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