Sheila Loanzon, who is a doctor, and has written a book called Yes, I Have Herpes, will guide you know deeper about herpes and dating with herpes.
MPWH: Dr Sheila Loanzon, it's our great honor to have this interview with you. Could you tell us about the main theme of this book? Why did you decide to write a book about herpes?
Dr Sheila Loanzon: I decided to write this book because I have the unique perspective of being both an OB/GYN (obstetrician/gynecologist), as well as a patient who has had herpes for 16 years. My story is about learning how to shift perspective about a virus that is considered a curse and to transform the experience of having herpes into a powerful vehicle for emotional growth.
I am passionate about the topic of herpes because it is a common STD and the stigma can cause a strong, confident woman to crumble, even a confident physician like myself. For years I was too scared and ashamed to tell my partners that I had herpes and I didn't know where to get advice on how to even start the conversation to tell my partners. I wanted a book to provide the tools to ease these difficult conversation and to help people realize there there is no need to be ashamed of herpes.
MPWH: Where can buyers find this book?
Dr Sheila Loanzon: The book can be found on Amazon and is available in paperback and kindle.
MPWH: How many buyers have you reached after it was published?
Dr Sheila Loanzon: Within 24 hours of its launch, the book ranked #1 on Amazon in the following categories: Women's Sexual Health,Genitourinary Infections and STDs, and Herpes.
MPWH: Do buyers share their real names when they purchase the book or do they remain anonymous?
Dr Sheila Loanzon: Because the book is sold through Amazon, buyers names are not available to the public.
MPWH: Where do the buyers mostly come from?
Dr Sheila Loanzon: Most of the purchasers of the book come from the United States, but there have also been orders from the UK, India, Mexico, and throughout Europe.
MPWH: Since you are a doctor and have a similar situation as our members, could you share your tips on treatment? Many people with herpes don't know how to take care of their outbreaks, especially for newly diagnosed.
Dr Sheila Loanzon: Once patients are diagnosed with herpes, it's important to take antiviral medications such as Acyclovir and Valacyclovir to decrease the length and severity of their outbreak. (Patients can receive prescriptions for these from their OB-GYN). Reducing stress and taking care of yourself is the first step to healing your body and preventing future occurrence. A healthy diet full of vitamins and antioxidants, and exercise are also very important.
MPWH: Can you tell us how to overcome the stigma? Most of time, our members feel more depressed from the stigma than herpes itself.
Dr Sheila Loanzon: Overcoming the stigma is one of the biggest issues faced by those who are herpes positive. I found comfort in knowing that there are multiple large communities of herpes positive people around us. Depending on where you live, these groups can sometimes be difficult to find, but even if there is not a physical group around, there are many online forums that lend support. Your physician can also be a valuable resource of information so I do encourage building a relationship with him/her. Educating yourself with the appropriate facts on herpes is important to dispel common myths, so I often direct patients to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for up-to-date, current literature.
I think it is appropriate to feel upset, frustrated, angry, unsure, anxious and depressed when newly diagnosed. This is a medical diagnosis with a full range of emotions, and mourning the life you once had is an important process to go through. Herpes is life changing, and grieving should be allowed. In fact, I encourage it! But once you take that time for yourself, look up and see that there are many people out there just like you who survive and thrive with it. I did and you can too!
Personally, it took me me many years to overcome the stigma and to be honest with my partners. I was in denial and I wanted to look perfect for them. I acknowledge that hindsight is 20/20, and if I could change my past decisions and inform my partners, I would. I struggled with self-love, self-worth, and confidence issues before realizing that if someone didn't want to be with me for being herpes positive, that didn't mean that anything was wrong with me. Once I overcame the stigma of the virus, I met many terrific partners who were interested in getting to know me instead of being discouraged by the virus.
MPWH: People with genital herpes is often called "dirty" people, but most of them are innocent. Can you give them some advice on how to deal with it?
Dr Sheila Loanzon: The myth that herpes positive people are dirty and promiscuous is false! Herpes can be contracted from contact with ONE partner who is herpes positive. I was a virgin when I contracted herpes from oral sex. Often the beliefs about herpes are ill-founded and not scientifically based. Closed-minded people without a lot of knowledge perpetuate myths about herpes and while it can be difficult to ignore those who have their own opinions, please be aware that you are wonderful as you are. You join the ranks of 1 in 6 people who have herpes - and that is a lot!
MPWH: Dating with herpes is very difficult for herpes singles. They lose confidence yet hope to find love again. What advice do you give on dating?
Dr Sheila Loanzon: About two years ago I began dating through a popular (non-Herpes based) online dating site. I would tell partners that I was herpes positive when I felt the relationship was becoming more intimate. At first it was scary to feel so vulnerable in front of someone and worry that I wasn't good enough or lovable enough. I reached a point in my dating where I realized that if this guy doesn't like me then there will be PLENTY of other men who will. I found that their disinterest in continuing the relationship had nothing to do with me, they just did not like the idea of the virus.
I was initially surprised when I found partners who were not phased by my honesty and wanted to get to know me better. My book covers various dates I went through and my partners' reactions, which ran the whole gamut from anger to understanding.
In the end, being open about herpes attracted a new kind of partner to me: ones that were open, honest, and genuine. My current partner is phenomenal and everything I could have hoped to have as my partner in life. He did not blink an eye when I told him I was herpes positive. He quickly replied, "Don't a lot of people have it? Does it matter? Do you have an outbreak right now? Nope, then let's go for it!"
MPWH: Disclosing herpes is a difficult part while dating. When is the best time to disclose this situation to your partner? How?
Dr Sheila Loanzon: I would recommend sharing that you're herpes positive when you feel like the relationship is becoming intimate. Telling someone on the first date may be premature because you may not know them well enough yet. I've always felt that my personal medical history isn't anyone's business unless it could potentially affect them.
It's always helpful to tell your partner in person. At the beginning, I told my partners that I had herpes over the phone, which was difficult because I couldn't gauge their body language and facial expressions. My first step when I tell a partner that I have herpes is remembering to BREATHE! Taking a deep breath can calm you and set the stage for speaking. Having the proper facts and giving your partner time to digest the news is important. Give them time to evaluate the information, perhaps do their own independent research, and come back to you without pressure. The more you date, the easier it'll become to disclose that you have herpes.The first few times I told my partners I mumbled, looked down, and steamrolled through my confession. I gradually felt more comfortable and was able to speak freely in front of my partners and to be frank. No one turned me away!
MPWH: Many people with herpes didn't know they had herpes before and many don't show symptoms. This is one main reason that many people have herpes. Do you have any ideas for people on how to protect themselves?
Dr Sheila Loanzon: While sexual abstinence is one way to avoid contracting herpes, it's unrealistic. Condoms can help protect you from viral shedding 96% of the time, but they don't cover all the skin areas that may be exposed during sexual activity. Taking antiviral suppression can decrease viral shedding by 50%. Studies have shown that when a herpes positive person is open with their partners, it can decrease the likelihood of transmission.
MPWH: To conclude this interview, would you give some advice to those people with and without herpes?
Dr Sheila Loanzon: Herpes does not have to be a curse and we can choose to grow instead of crumble from the experience. I am working diligently to increase awareness and education regarding the stigma surrounding herpes. Breast cancer used to be a taboo issue until recently, and herpes can follow suit.
For those readers who do not have herpes, thank you for learning how to support those of us who do. We are all human, with a basic need for love, support, and belonging. After reading my book, my godmother informed me, "I wish I had herpes so I know exactly what you were going through!"
When I told my colleagues, friends, and family that I had herpes, they did not shut me out as I thought they would, but gave me even more love and support. Don't underestimate the people around you. They would like to support you through this journey. My motto is: "We have herpes and we are not alone." Yes, I Have Herpes will help people overcome the challenges of having this stigmatized STD.