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Karen's Letter to ABC Television

On Friday February 13th 2004, Ms. Behar made some extremely negative and hateful comments during the Valentine show regarding a personal ad that mentioned herpes. I am extremely disgusted and dismayed that a woman of her caliber could be so cold hearted.

Ms. Behar's comments with regard to a personal ad in which a person mentioned they had herpes were utterly distasteful and full of hate. She called the person "a loser" and shrugged off the suggestion by her co-host that perhaps the person might deserve respect for their honesty. Ms. Behar also said it would be a relationship "deal breaker." Frankly, I am astounded at Ms. Behar's lack of ability to empathize with people who are suffering from an incurable medical condition. Her insensitivity is inexcusable.

I realize Joy Behar is primarily a comedian; however, this does not excuse her judgmental and bitchy attitude. People in the public eye have a responsibility on such shows to present the truth and to not bolster bigotry. I am, personally, a great fan of comedians and often enjoy quite risqué and not-so-politically-correct humor; however, I draw the line at maliciousness and IGNORANT comments. Ms. Behar should EDUCATE herself before making such blanket and prejudicial statements.

It is hard enough to fight against the stigma of STD's these days without having a celebrity crush our efforts and insult such LARGE numbers of people. I suggest that along with Ms. Behar educating herself on this condition, that all the members of THE VIEW learn about this and do a show about it to help educate the public since Herpes affects thousands of men and women every year.

How common is herpes? About 50 percent to 80 percent of the adult population in the United States has oral herpes. Most people contract oral herpes when they are children by receiving a kiss from a friend or relative. About one in five adults in the United States has genital herpes, however as many as 90 percent are unaware that they have the virus. Anyone who is sexually active can contract genital herpes.

So, I ask you this: Do you really want to piss off 25% of the American Adult population? Do you really want to alienate 25% to 80% of your audience? Have you not noticed all the commercials for VALTREX on TV in the last few years? Do you really think that the drug companies would be spending so much money on advertising if there weren't a HUGE customer base for it? They aren't stupid. They know how COMMON herpes is - perhaps you should wake up and smell the truth yourselves.

Something else to think about: When you make comments such as this, there is no telling the effect it could have on troubled individuals. Ms. Behar may have seriously damaged some people on Friday.

I am a 34 year old, monogamous, college educated woman who has been living with Herpes since 1992 - I contracted it from a lying boyfriend who cheated. Even the use of a condom didn't prevent it from happening to me.  I was devastated and remained celibate for many years afterward. I personally resent her comments for many reasons, but most importantly for those troubled people who are newly diagnosed. I am currently a volunteer with several organizations that offer help for people living with Herpes or HPV, and as a lay counselor of sorts, I counsel many, many people. I have wiped their tears, offered information and advice and even talked people out of committing suicide. Yes, this can be devastating enough that there are many who think about or attempt suicide upon hearing the diagnosis of herpes. Some handle it well, but most are devastated and many go into a sort of "relationship" hibernation and end up clinically depressed. Unfortunately, many of these people assume it has to mean the end of sex, love, or any sort of personal life at all. They give up on happiness but it doesn't have to be that way. The actual physical effects of herpes are not that bad for most of us but the social stigma that is associated with it is what is most damaging, and Joy Behar has only exacerbated that.  It takes years to emotionally heal from this kind of trauma and I can only imagine what her comments might have done to some poor fan watching that day that had recently been diagnosed.

The other part to think about is this:

By Ms. Behar saying that the person was a "loser" and that herpes would be a "deal breaker", she is purporting prejudice and condoning LYING. Many people, who have lived with Herpes for a long time, come to accept their situation and learn to be responsible. A person, who is honest and has the courage to put that in a personal ad should be APPLAUDED, not insulted.  Ms. Behar has a right to her opinion, but if that opinion is hateful, then it should not be shared on the air. Most of us got this because someone had been dishonest thus many of us in the herpes community have now chosen to be honest and tell people we have it so they can have the choice we didn't have. Some even choose to date others with Herpes.  Also, not everyone is as judgmental and prejudice as Ms. Behar - many, many, non infected people are not afraid and have fallen in love with people who have herpes and are living happy lives today.  I know of married couples where one has it and the other does not. Is Ms. Behar seriously suggesting that a person should allow a non-life threatening medical condition to stop us from finding love? Do I not deserve the same love and respect as she does? People with herpes are human beings with feelings, not horrible monsters to be afraid of and do not deserve to be publicly "trashed" by the likes of Joy Behar. Her arrogance seriously needs to be taken down a notch.

I used to be a fan of The View, but I will no longer watch it and will be discouraging my friends and family from watching this show until Joy Behar makes a public apology to the thousands of Americans she has insulted. Perhaps in the future, Ms. Behar should use that brain in her head before opening her mouth. In my opinion, Joy Behar is a spoiled and sheltered rich brat who has absolutely no idea what it is like out there in the real world today.  She is seriously out of touch with the general public. Again, I used to think well of her but it appears I gave her much more credit than she deserved. Apparently she is not as intelligent as I thought. Her comments were hurtful, ignorant, mean-spirited, judgmental, and simply irresponsible. One should have some knowledge about a topic such as this before speaking on it in any way.

I hope you will consider doing a show about Herpes and STD's in an effort to help us destigmatize it as well as educate people on how to protect themselves, symptoms, treatment, resources, how common it is, how it's not as bad as people think, and to put a human face on it. Only then, will I have anything nice to say about ABC and The View.

 

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