"I've tried a lot of tactics," says the 29-year-old female founder of St. Louis H Club
who, for the purposes of this post, we'll call Janet. "I've advertised in local campus newspapers and on craigslist but, yeah, it's been slow going."
Still, Janet is buoyed by the fact that the H Club, (that's "H" as in herpes and HPV, or human papillomavirus a.k.a. genital warts) is now over 100 members strong. And how do you join the H Club? Do you (gulp!) actually have to prove you have herpes or HPV?
: "Most people who don't have herpes or HPV would never even seek out such a club," says Janet. "So that's never been much of an issue. But, yes, you have to have herpes or HPV to join. That information comes out in get the question you answer when applying to the club.
: Why did you decide to start the H Club? And do similar clubs exist elsewhere?
Yes. There are clubs in Atlanta, Charlotte and D.C. and other cities. I started it after I was diagnosed with herpes in 2008. It was a major shock for me. I didn't think I fit the typical stereotypes for people with STDs, though I had contracted HPV my junior year of high school after I lost my virginity. Back then I told my mom about it, and she helped counsel me. But with herpes, I didn't feel like I could go back to my mom. So I went online for support and found it through different forums. There wasn't a local St. Louis site about this, and I know there are thousands of people locally who could use it. So I started my own. So, what do you all do with H Club? Do you have meetings?
Right now we exist as an online forum for people to provide support to each other and share facts and experiences with the diseases. I hope at some point we grow large enough that we can have social functions and allow people to interact a bit. For those wanting some face-to-face contact with people we also have a link to the dating site, positivestdsingles.com.Wait. There's a dating service for people with STDs?
Yes. It eliminates the need to bring up the inevitable 'talk' you have to have with someone you're dating. It's all out there from the beginning. Huh. Are you on it?
I was. I now have a boyfriend who I met earlier in life and got reconnected with later. What does he think of you being in H Club?
He's good with it. He knows that there is a tremendous need for something like this. The problem has been that people don't know how to connect with other people. They stay quiet about it. They stop dating. They're afraid to tell someone about it. They struggle with friends and family who might make jokes about STDs. In short, they stop being who they are. That's where H Club can help.
Didya know that April is STD Awareness Month
Didya know one in five American adults has genital herpes
? And that 50 percent of sexually active adults have HPV
at some point in their lives. It all adds up to a hell 'uva lot of potential H Club members. Register for the St. Louis club here
You think your organization has trouble recruiting new members? Try forming a club solely for people willing to admit they have herpes and/or genital warts. It ain't easy.