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10 Million People Watched a Woman’s Reaction to Being Diagnosed With Herpes

10 Million People Watched a Woman’s Reaction to Being Diagnosed With Herpes

  • Sophie Miller turned to her burner TikTok account when she was diagnosed with herpes.
  • She said she never expected that more than 10 million people would see it.
  • Miller said she now wanted to use her platform to become a sexual-health advocate.

“Today my whole life could change,” Sophie Miller said in a video she uploaded to her burner TikTok account on October 12, never expecting anyone to see it. “And I’m scared.”

Miller said she’d been experiencing a burning sensation when she peed and had noticed a lymph node in her groin was swollen. She said she was first given medication for a UTI, but when that didn’t work, she booked in to see her gynecologist.

Miller told Business Insider she sat down and started recording the video about an hour before her appointment because she’d seen sores on her genitals and was beginning to worry.

She said she was in pain — unable to walk or sit down without it hurting. “It sucked,” she said.

She’d been looking up her symptoms, she said, thinking that it was one of those situations in which Dr. Google gives the worst possible outcome and that she was just getting herself worked up.

“Then I went to the doctor, and she was like, yeah, no, you have herpes,” Miller said. “And then I just went into shock.”

Immediately, Miller started spiraling — what did this mean for her future relationships? Would anyone want to sleep with her again?

“If somebody told me that they had herpes two weeks before my diagnosis, I probably wouldn’t have pursued them,” she said. “Hearing that I had it, I felt very damaged. So I got in my car right after and made the video of me crying.”

Miller didn’t think anyone would pay attention to her video. She thought people would watch a few seconds and scroll on by. But she was wrong. It exploded and quickly amassed more than 10 million views.

“I just posted it to get it out of my system,” she said. “I didn’t want to tell anybody that I knew, but I just needed to talk. And then I ended up talking to 10 million people.”

An estimated 40 million to 50 million adults in the US have genital herpes — the sexually transmitted disease caused by the viral strains herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HSV-2 is usually transmitted through genital contact, but HSV-1, which affects roughly 50-80% of the population in the US, can be transmitted to a partner’s genitals orally.

There are about 572,000 new infections a year, of which many are non-symptomatic. There is no cure, but antiviral medication can alleviate outbreaks.

Though the virus is incredibly common, stigma about STDs in general remains, meaning there are a lot of misconceptions about how it’s transmitted and how it’s diagnosed.

Miller said that she wasn’t clued up on it at all before her diagnosis but that she’d since learned everything. For example, she said she had the HSV-1 strain and had since learned it’s the same virus that causes cold sores.

“I think that it’s silly that people that have it genitally get shamed by somebody that could have it on their mouth,” she said.

STDs and STIs shouldn’t be something that you are terrified of. They’re so common that it should be talked about more, and it should be just understood more.”

The response to her video was overwhelming, she said, because it was so much more positive than she ever anticipated.

She said it “put me at ease a lot,” especially when so many people started sharing their own stories in the comments. A lot of people said they’d been diagnosed with herpes at a young age and forgotten about it because they’d never had a flare-up since. One woman said she’d been married for many years, and her partner had never contracted it.

“When you first get diagnosed, you kind of feel tainted, and all you think about is that it’s a lifetime thing,” Miller said. “But it’s not the end of the world. You’re going to be OK.”

Sophie Miller

Sophie Miller says she now wants to help educate people about sexual health.

Sophie Miller

Where the comments weren’t so supportive, though, were on Facebook, where her video was shared on the page It’s Gone Viral.

Miller said she knew the video was going to be posted there and prepared herself for the comments — even wading into some she thought were ignorant.

“They would be like, ‘The girl in the video, she had to learn the hard way,'” Miller said. “And I would be like, ‘Hi, that’s actually me, and FYI, you can get herpes with using a condom.'”

She also reminded people herpes generally isn’t tested for on STD panels — you need a specific blood test.

“It’s like, dude, you probably have it,” she said.

Miller also noticed that most people commenting on her video and reaching out to her in messages were women.

“I found that very interesting, considering men are more likely to spread it than women, too,” she said.

She said this was probably because there’s even more silence among men when it comes to sexual health, and while men are generally more likely to ignore a problem and hope it goes away, women are quicker to head to the doctor’s office.

Miller said she hoped her video and future content would bridge the education gap so more people know what they might be transmitting.

She also said she wanted to fight the stigma. At first, she said, having people in her life text her that they had seen her video was the last thing she wanted to happen, but then she realized it wasn’t such a big deal.

She said that even when she heard her own voice at a hair salon because another client was watching her video, she managed to remain calm. She just thought it was surreal and focused on the positive impact, she added.

“For the people that are just getting diagnosed, I’m sure that they’ll find comfort in my reaction,” she said. “Seeing that I’ve made peace with it, and I’m just learning and educating too.”

She said that overall, she just wanted to end the judgment of “purity culture.” People can contract herpes and not find out for years as it lays dormant. Many people never have symptoms. Some catch it through no fault of their own because their partner cheated or they were sexually assaulted.

“People are so quick to jump to conclusions, and it’s not fair,” she said.

She added that she hoped to help people bring up herpes, or any STD or STI, while talking with their partners “without the feeling of embarrassment or fear of rejection.”

“What’s your favorite color? Blue. OK. Do you have any STDs?” she said. “Just make it a conversation.”

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