Ella Dawson's TEDx Talk Proves Genital Herpes Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

'An STI, especially herpes, is not a reflection of your character.'

Ella Dawson wants you to know that she has genital herpes.

The reason? Dawson is on a mission to end the stigma that surrounds STIs and causes sufferers to avoid seeking treatment.

In her TEDx talk, the 23-year-old explained that she found out she’d contracted the infection in her third year of university.

At the time, she was a little embarrassed and very surprised.

“People with herpes, in my mind, were dishonest, irresponsible, promiscuous, unfaithful,” she explained.

“What I learned very quickly was that [this] really intense, deeply engrained stereotype was the result of a very powerful social stigma that surrounds STIs like herpes in our society.”


The more Dawson learned about herpes, the more she realised how common it is.

According to the World Health Organisation, two in three people in the world have the most common strains of herpes.

In her talk, Dawson explained that herpes can be spread all manner of ways, from kissing your aunt who has a coldsore to rubbing against an infected player in a wrestling match.

"An STI, especially herpes, is not a reflection of your character or a consequence of a bad decision," she said.

"It is an inevitability of being a human being on this planet who comes into skin contact with other human beings."

As Dawson points out, unless you've recently "peed in a cup" you probably can't be certain about your STI status.

Knowing your STI status, and telling others about it, is nothing to be ashamed of - it's empowering.

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