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A woman who has herpes says she still enjoys a normal sex life – despite being labelled a "super spreader".
Suzanna Brusikiewicz has had the sexually transmitted disease (STD) for three years but says it hasn't stopped her dating and having new sexual partners.
She said she's always honest and tells potential lovers that she has herpes and that none have so far been nasty to her.
Read more:Woman with two vaginas says sex can be 'excruciatingly painful' for her lovers
But online she says it's different, with her trolls – who are all men – calling her "damaged goods" and "passed around".
Suzanna, aged 37, from Toronto in Canada, is now fighting back and working to promote what it's like living with an STD as a "herpes advocate" through her Instagram page, Suzbubs.
She contracted genital herpes in late 2019 from an ex-boyfriend who cheated on her. There is no cure for the disease with the only treatment being ointments or medication for when it flares up.
Suzanna, who also works as a sensual guide and creative director, said now that she had developed herpes, the virus would stay in her system for life.
She has the genital variety, but there's also oral herpes which appears as cold sores on the face – and receives much less stigma.
"It's odd that the oral kind is normalised and brushed off, for the most part, whereas the genital kind is scorned and penalised," she said. "It just highlights our lack of education around this really common virus."
Suzanna has hit back at anyone who abuses her for having an STD with some uncomfortable facts.
She said: "Between 75 and 90% of people who have herpes won't ever have symptoms, or ever know. I say to anyone who is rude to go and get tested – they'll probably be in for a surprise."
When she meets a man she'd like to sleep with, Suzanna tells them straight away she has herpes.
"They're generally always thankful for the honesty and transparency, and most aren't concerned about it," she said.
"After all, that's why precautions exist and condoms are really effective, so generally it doesn't actually change anything about my sex or dating life, it's just about letting the person know.
"And that rare person who's uncomfortable or opts out is fine, but I've actually never had anyone react rudely. "
But in the virtual world she has suffered a lot of trolling.
"I'd say 99 per cent of my hate comments come from men, which can make it hard to want to keep dating them, but thankfully there's a huge difference between my treatment in the real world versus online.
"The hate is hardly about herpes, but about being a woman who knows her worth and hotness despite it.
"They're uneducated men who are intimidated by a woman who's confident and in full possession of her sexuality, who I wouldn't date anyway."
A particularly hurtful comment came when the host of an MTV show, called 'Ridiculousness', labelled her a "super-spreader".
"That p****d me off, because it was an absurd thing to say, was incredibly misinformed, and in direct opposition to MTV claiming to be a sex-positive network that actually has a sexual health support site, " she said.
She says day-to-day, herpes doesn't affect her at all, apart from the occasional skin irritation.
Part of her role as a herpes advocate involves smashing the common misconceptions about the disease. These include the fact it's painful (it isn't) and that having it means you sleep around – you don't.
And she said anyone who has recently found out they have herpes should not let it affect their lives going forward. "The only difference between you and anyone else is you now know you have herpes. Nothing else changes."
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