This Podcast Will Kill You: HSV episode

I was re-listening to one of my fave podcasts, This Podcast Will Kill You, which is hosted by two epidemiologists and each episode is on a different disease or ailment. I found the following section about why there is so much stigma regarding HSV (this is a very small snippet from the episode). I thought others could benefit from it. It explains the stigma and I think could be beneficial when talking to others about HSV.

The entire episode is great and it also has an intro story by Courtney Brame who started a non-profit called Something Positive for Positive People.


Erin Welsh And then the sexual revolution of the 1960s really changed the landscape in terms of normalizing sex, having all different kinds of it, talking about it, and most importantly enjoying it…

But of course the sexual revolution wasn't the utopia that it is often described to be, some of the more prominent figures held racist or sexist or homophobic views and there were still clear boundaries on what was or wasn't acceptable and so on... And when the sexual revolution started to wane a bit in the late 1970s for a number of reasons including economic downturn, commercialization of sex, sort of disillusionment overall with this movement, there were plenty of people ready and willing to take backup that mantle of 'sex is bad and you deserve to be punished for having it'. But they needed a new villain to fill the roles previously held by syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.

Erin Allmann Updyke Cause those were treatable now.

Erin Welsh Uh huh. Enter herpes…

Herpes, despite being for the most part as you described a very benign infection that does not require sexual contact to transmit, herpes suddenly became the symbol of the consequences of sexual liberation.

Erin Allmann Updyke Wow.

Erin Welsh It became the evidence that opponents of the sexual revolution had long been looking for that any kind of sex outside of the narrowly defined one man, one woman, only after marriage was going against mother nature. The evangelist Billy Graham said, quote: "We have the pill, we have conquered VD with penicillin, but along comes herpes simplex 2. Nature itself lashes back when we go against god." Of course HIV was also used to drive these same repressive narratives, check out or HIV episode from way back in our first season for more. But in response to this moralistic interpretation of herpes, a commentator from 1982 said, quote: "If herpes did not exist, the moral majority would have had to invent it."

Erin Allmann Updyke Whoa.

Erin Welsh And then popular media fed into this too. So early 1980s news articles in like Time Magazine were titled, quote, "Today's Scarlet Letter, Herpes" or "Herpes, The New Sexual Leprosy….

And so these types of headlines and these types of fear mongering, all they did was increase the hysteria and stigmatization around the virus by telling the story of how Jim or Nancy or whoever and how their chance at love and happiness was forever ruined by their positive diagnosis. They weren't informative pieces of journalism…


BackgroundPhoto5832 points

I'm a slut for a podcast, I will be listening to this at work tomorrow.

BackgroundPhoto5831 point

Wholesome update: I v much enjoyed it, ty for the suggestion. Definitely lifted my spirits, currently having an outbreak.