Kissing Goodbye to Herpes Stigma

As students and staff prepare themselves for a night out (or in [someone]), Jill Offerman rejoices in a more obscure phenomenon—a decrease in the stigma against herpes. Herpes simplex is an STD transmitted through fornication. Yet despite herpes’ presence in 44.85% of the general population, people with the disease encounter intense moral and aesthetic judgment, leaving them sex-less and plan-less on many drunken weekends. Those laden with this crippling malady also face bleak futures marked by thousands of dollars spent on cold-sore ointments, and low job promotion prospects (due primarily to fewer opportunities to trade sexual favors for raises).

However, Offerman claims that she has seen a significant destigmatization of herpes lately: “I definitely feel like the more people realize how often they actually interact with those who have herpes, the more they realize that herpes-infected people are just like everyone else—except they have herpes. But that shouldn’t make them any different. Or they are different but they shouldn’t be treated as such. I mean, like, we should acknowledge this difference, kind of, in the way we help deal with the infection, but not in like—a negative way. Yeah.”

She also thinks that “an increasing academic workload is generating much more physical tension that needs to be released, leading to students being less discerning about whom they sleep with.” Because let’s face it: if you’ve just bombed your calculus exam after writing your Russian literature final in Spanish, about a book you read in German translation studies, you won’t bother to inquire about a potential partner’s herpes status as you leave the bar $300 in debt.

“I know it sounds like we’re going downhill,” Offerman recognizes, “but really, it’s showing us that herpes isn’t some horrific affliction. Unfounded rumors about the characters of infected people need to stop. All herpes results in is a physical deformity—which you can really only see in the light, so how is it any worse than duck-facing or Uggs?”

And how is Offerman doing her part in the effort towards destigmatization? “I just finished a campaign that involved going to every spot on campus that offers free condoms, and collecting all of them. The message here is that once we stop being bothered by our inhibitions regarding herpes, we won’t need things like condoms. I hope that tonight, when people struggle to find protection, they’ll give a moment’s thought to all the people they inadvertently judge each time they use it.”

An anonymous witness to Offerman’s condom-confiscation weighs in, “I thought her initiative was very brave and sends the right message,” she says. “I’m here to have your babies, and I can’t have some sheep’s bladder ruining my chances at a good life. Also, condoms get my hands all greasy.”

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