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I soothed the worries of distraught parents asking if their newly diagnosed teenage daughter’s clothes could be washed with everyone else’s or if they could still babysit their younger cousin.By the time I was diagnosed with Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2) in 2015, I was well-versed in the stigma surrounding HIV and STDs.It was in this moment that I took complete ownership of herpes, and suddenly felt empowered by this guy’s ignorance. But, I was the one with the virus and I was the one with the knowledge.I used that to take back the power in this situation.My experience with stigma continued as I made a point to inform partners of my diagnosis.I wasn’t looking for anyone to blame, I just wanted to be responsible and respectful of my partners.Despite all of my knowledge, I was not immune to the societal messages of shame.

And, as the provider hurriedly left the exam room, I was left to navigate this new and unexpected reality alone.That is why we are working to give a voice to the community of individuals affected by all STDs.This work both inspires and empowers me, which is why I have chosen to use my voice and share my story. Amanda previously worked at the Ohio Department of Health where she managed STD, Hepatitis, and HIV prevention and surveillance programs.There she spearheaded program integration efforts and conducted strategic planning and program evaluation.Prior to her work at the state level, Amanda managed various programs and projects at an FQHC, focusing on the implementation of programs that addressed health equity and social determinants of health.

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Yet another completely cut all ties with me, our friendship instantly evaporating upon disclosure.

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