The news about major recording artist Usher infecting a celebrity stylist with herpes was shocking. In 2012, he supposedly paid her $1M to settle a lawsuit that alleged he did not tell her of his herpes status, continued to have unprotected sex with her and knowingly infected her with the virus.


And now a new woman is suing him for $10M for “exposing” her to the infection, but doesn’t state if she is actually infected. The Twitterverse and TMZ exploded once they caught wind that the sexy R&B symbol had herpes; however, they focused on the fact that he has herpes, but not the fact that having unprotected sex is the true culprit.

According to the CDC, one out of every six people between the ages of 14 and 49 have herpes in the United States. More than half of the population has oral herpes (herpes simplex 1) and don’t know it because they don’t show any signs or symptoms. Bet you didn’t know that. Meaning, statistically, if you’re in a meeting, more than half of the room may be infected with some strand of herpes. Scary, huh?


It is traditionally defined as “any of a group of viral diseases caused by herpes viruses, affecting the skin (often with blisters) or the nervous system.” Herpes is a virus and does not have a cure. Additionally, did you know that chickenpox, shingles, and mono are various strands of herpes?


Technically, we all have come in contact with some form of herpes in one way or another, yet we’re so disgusted, grossed out, devastated when we hear about genital herpes? There is a stigma surrounded by genital herpes, yet it’s perfectly fine to have cold sores AKA oral herpes.


A young African American woman (we’ll call her Amelia) recently spoke to me about her experience living with the herpes virus. A boyfriend she had been dating for about a month infected her. She had never had symptoms of an infection before, but after one night of unprotected sex, she suffered from cold-like symptoms (body chills, fever, stuffy nose and congestion), as well as genital blisters. At first she thought they were ingrown hairs; however, after they had been intimate another time, she had severe vaginal bleeding and immediately knew something wasn’t right and went to urgent care. “I remember when I received my diagnosis. I was numb. I put on a brave face for the doctor and accepted my fate, but when I got to my car, I sobbed. I sobbed like if she told me I had cancer and six months to live.”


She communicated her diagnosis to her boyfriend who was very supportive and who himself never displayed or suffered from any symptoms. When he wanted to get tested at the local clinic, he was told that there was no clinical test to see if he had the virus unless he had an outbreak. Isn’t that odd; no test, really?


According to a medical professional, “Because so many people have the herpes virus, insurances don’t want to test patients for the herpes virus unless they have an outbreak because it’s costly and more than likely the test will come back positive.”


How does this all affect the African American and Latino communities and the education they receive on sexually transmitted infections? Ethnic traditions and customs definitely play a factor. Amelia’s mom is a proud traditional Catholic Latina. Amelia says, “Sex was never discussed in my household. It was taboo. I learned about sex from sex education in high school.”


But doesn’t the state and county provide educational programs? According to a behavioral health professional, “The resources are out there, but it really takes a village to further the education.” Sometimes the county and state target predominantly African American and Latino communities to provide sex health education, but for some reason people still don’t know about it. “They need to do a better job of promoting the workshops, but again, it’s not all up to the county and state to provide this type of education. Family friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, everyone should be providing this education too.”


As a community, we must take care of each other. If the educational system and local government entities are not making their programs known to ethnic communities, we must take matters into our own hands and educate ourselves. Let’s end the taboo of talking about sex and STIs and herpes. If you are sexually active, remember to wear a condom to protect yourself. And if you think you’ve come in contact with someone with herpes, speak to your doctor.


“If you have herpes, it’s not the end of the world. There are millions just like you and me. Be brave, courageous and continue in your purpose.”


Tiffany Garcia is a blogger for CSUITEMUSIC.

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