30-year-old Shana Singleton recently went viral on TikTok for sharing this video:
In her video, which has over 1.5 million views, Shana lists some everyday things people do that can be considered “unclean” or “bad for you,” yet she gets called “dirty” because she has herpes.
Most people praised Shana for speaking out and fighting to break the stigma around genital herpes.
And herpes is more common than some people may realize. According to the CDC, more than one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes in the US.
BuzzFeed spoke to Shana whose life mission is to help others with genital herpes change the way they view themselves. Shana said she made the video because a lot of women with herpes call themselves “dirty” after being diagnosed, so she wanted to try to put things into perspective. “My point was to show people that no one is perfect and that you should think before placing judgment on people who cannot help the fact that they have herpes,” she said.
Shana got diagnosed with HSV2 five years ago — on the same day she found out she was pregnant. “I thought I had a razor bump, but this razor bump was extremely painful, so my partner suggested that I get it examined by my doctor. My doctor told me that it most definitely looked like a razor bump and that I had nothing to be worried about. Her ‘examination’ did not sit well with me, so I insisted on having the bump tested,” she explained.
“When I went back in for a follow-up appointment, I had just tested positive on a home pregnancy test and I wanted my doctor to confirm the pregnancy, so I wasn’t really worried about my razor bump. When the doctor came in, she said, I have good news and bad news, what do you want first? I always ask for bad news first and that is when she told me I tested positive for HSV2. Then she told me I was pregnant. My mind went into shock — the only thing I could think about was telling my partner that not only was I pregnant, but I had herpes as well,” she said.
Unfortunately, Shana said her doctor did not give her any information about the virus. “All she said was everyone has herpes and not to have sex during an outbreak. My partner was OK with it, so I tried focusing on my pregnancy.” However, Shana and her partner split up in the middle of her pregnancy. “Having herpes was the cherry on top of a very difficult time and I sunk into deep depression. I was disappointed in myself,” she said.
After Shana gave birth to her son, she suffered from postpartum depression. “My body was not the same, I was sleep deprived, my nipples were cracked and bleeding from breast feeding, and I had no idea how I could be a single mom — not to mention I still had herpes. I thought no one would ever want me and I did not even want myself.”
Later that year, things changed after Shana heard Solange Knowles’ album A Seat At The Table. Shana said hearing the song “Cranes In The Sky” kick-started her self-love journey. “Everything up to that point in my life was because of everyone else, I never took accountability for anything and I needed to take my power back. I had to change my mindset, and a part of that was owning that my life was a reflection of my mindset, which was an extremely hard pill for me to swallow,” she said.
Shana realized her sadness wasn’t from having herpes, it was from a lack of self love. “I used my herpes as an excuse for my depression. I was comfortable being a victim and it was time for me to get uncomfortable in order to grow, and in order to save my life. As my love for myself started to grow, the people around me started to gravitate towards my light and this pushed me into becoming a self-love coach,” she explained.
However, in the beginning, being a self-love coach didn’t feel right to Shana because she wasn’t open and honest about having genital herpes. “I decided to post about my herpes on Instagram in June of this year. That day, my DMs flooded with people telling me their own herpes stories, and that’s when I realized my voice and story could save lives. That day I labeled myself a herpes advocate and went to war against the stigma.”
“This is my message for women with genital herpes: Your partner is not taking a risk, your partner is making an informed decision. You do not have to ignore your boundaries just because you have herpes. You do not have to stay in a toxic relationship just because you share the same status, or because someone accepts your status. You do not have to lower your standards just because you have herpes. You still deserve to require to see STI results from potential partners. This is not the end of your sex life, but the start of your healthy sex life. Herpes does not depreciate your value. Forgive yourself, be kind to yourself, love yourself FIRST,” she said.
Shana wants people to know that herpes is not usually included in your average STI panel, so you should always ask to be tested for it if you’re sexually active. “People who are herpes positive need to disclose it because not disclosing it fuels the stigma. The majority of us with herpes have it because someone did not disclose that they had it to us. So, give other people the opportunity to make the informed decision that we, as a community, did not get,” she said.
“I am at war with the herpes stigma, and I promise not to stop until the women within the community feel comfortable enough to be open about their status and proud of their sexuality. I am here to SLAY THE STIGMA. You can find out how I handle my outbreaks, my diet, how I have sex, how I disclose, and lots more on my YouTube channel,” Shana said.