Usher’s herpes “Confessions”

Cecilia G. Hernandez, Writer

Picture this: you’re getting hot and heavy with a partner you really like; you’re both ready to get the ball rolling. But then you ask your partner if they carry any STIs – they say no. There’s no reason not to trust them and you continue. A couple of weeks later, sores, fevers and chills plague your body, leaving you alarmed and calling your doctor for help. Turns out you now have herpes.

R&B star Usher was exposed for allegedly infecting a lover with herpes back in 2012.The importance of full sexual disclosure and educations arises from the midst of Usher’s sex scandal.

The singer was diagnosed with herpes back in 2009 or 2010, but neglected to warn his partner before having unprotected sex, according to an article written for the New York Daily News.

The withholding aspect is what angers me. Let’s put aside the fact that a lot of this could have been avoided with a condom. Usher lied. Now a woman has to live with an incurable virus. Thankfully under California law, it’s illegal to “knowingly or recklessly transmit an STD.”

What about in our state of Illinois?

The Illinois STD law applies only to HIV, according to “Transmitting an STD in Illinois” The Illinois Criminal STD law makes it a crime for “anyone who knows [they carry], or is infected by the [HIV].” Anyone with HIV cannot engage in sexual activity or intimate contact with someone else. They can’t donate blood, semen, bodily tissue, etc. If an HIV-positive person engages in any of these activities, they’ve committed a class 2 felony offense. But that’s another article.

The problem here with the wording of this law is the word “knows” because it’s a loophole. It gives people wiggle room to not take care of themselves, to not care about their HIV status and to avoid testing themselves. If they don’t test themselves, they won’t know. Some people don’t have any symptoms right away or even in years. So if they do infect others, they’re free from criminal charges because they didn’t know.

Another problem I have with this law is that it does not mention any of the several other types of STIs including herpes, Syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. We, unfortunately, live in a society where sexually transmitted infections spread at an alarming rate.

Illinois ranked No. six among the 50 states in the number of HIV diagnoses in 2015, according to Illinois’ State Health Profile on the Centers for Disease Control website. Illinois ranked No. 11 among the 50 states for Syphilis, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Keep in mind, these statistics only reflect reported cases.

Instead of promoting ignorance, we should take Usher’s sex scandal as a warning to always have protected sex and know our STI and HIV statuses.

How do we do that?

Student Health Services at NEIU, located in E-051 on the main campus, provides STI testing – and it’s already included in our tuition. They also offer emergency contraception, pap smears, regular birth control, screening services – you name it! Some services do require a fee, but paying 10 dollars for the Plan B pill beats paying 50 bucks at Target.

For non-students, there’s always the beloved Planned Parenthood. There are at least seven PP centers in Chicago, the closest one to NEIU’s main campus is in Rogers Park. Their services are often free with Medicaid, or at affordable prices.

We have options! Negligence should not be a valid defense. Protect yourselves and know your status so that you may help stop the spread of STIs.

Like my mom always says: “es mejor prevenir que lamentar.” Roughly translated from Spanish: “better prevent than regret.”