Some men have told her, flat-out, that they would never date someone with herpes, but what bothers her, too, are the ones who say, “I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
“I don’t want people to feel sorry for me,” she said. “I wake up every day and I’m fine.”
Scientists have worked on herpes vaccines in fits and starts since the 1970s, said Dr. Harvey Friedman, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine who has studied the disease for over 40 years. But past attempts have failed, for reasons researchers are still trying to uncover.
Because herpes has been around for so long, the viruses have evolved alongside us, making them more difficult to eradicate, said Christine Johnston, an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine who has studied herpes.
There are new vaccines under development. Dr. Friedman is working with BioNTech on an HSV-2 vaccine candidate that was given to the first human subject in December. But none are in late-stage clinical trials, said Dr. Ina Park, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of “Strange Bedfellows: Adventures in the Science, History, and Surprising Secrets of S.T.D.s.” “There’s nothing anywhere close to prime time,” she said.
‘One of the biggest secret societies’
When Ella Dawson, 30, contracted genital HSV-1 in college, she started to post openly about her diagnosis on social media. To her surprise, people came out of the woodwork to share their stories — friends, relatives, even a cashier who worked at the grocery store on campus. Many told her that they had never disclosed their diagnosis to anyone other than a sexual partner.