“STIs aren’t a consequence. They’re inevitable”  TEDx Talk by  Ella Dawson. 


Herpes TEDx Talk

I came across this TED talk today “STIs aren’t a consequence. They’re inevitable”  by  Ella Dawson.  While I don’t believe they are inevitable, I do agree that education about sexual health sucks and wanted to share her story.

Ella talks about the social stigma associated with having herpes, as well as the emotional and psychological shock of getting a diagnosis.

An interesting and highly educational speech.  See video below and link to Ella’s website.

Although in Australia sex education in schools is probably a little more robust and comprehensive than the US, ( “non-existent” / “abstinence only”, “don’t get pregnant” / “get tested and know your status” / “this is how to put a condom on a banana” etc), it still surprises me how little persons living in Australia know about STI’s and in particular Herpes.

Ella raises some excellent points about herpes such as

  • Even though herpes is classed as an STI many people are unaware that herpes is transmitted through skin to skin contact, and not bodily fluids.
  • Herpes is incurable, although medication can help manage symptoms and reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Herpes tests can be unreliable (and expensive in the US, In Australia, testing for HSV 1 and HSV 2 is bulk billed, although other strains of herpes also exist that are generally only tested for if you have symptoms for that particular strain)
    • “Blood tests for HSV give too many false positive and false negative results” – (Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, 2017)
      Herpes is not tested via urine.
    • “A swab is taken from the ulcer or itchy spot and sent for virus DNA detection, which also detects whether the virus is HSV-1 or HSV-2. ”  – (Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, 2017)
  • If you have had the virus before and you are not presently showing symptoms (blisters, sores) you can still transmit herpes to your sexual partners or persons whom you come into skin to skin contact with.
  • HSV simplex 1  generally causes cold sores on the lips, mouth and gums, but can also appear on the genitals, and eyes.   The world health organisation states that 2 in 3 persons world-wide have this strain of herpes.
  • HSV herpes simplex 2 generally causes genital sores but can also be transmitted to the mouth and eyes  WHO states that 1 in 6 persons have this strain of herpes.
  • Chicken pox and Shingles are strains of herpes.


Dawson, E (n.d) Ella Dawson. Blog. Herpes. from https://elladawson.com/herpes/

Dawson, E.  (May 11, 2016) TEDx Talks. TEDx Connecticut College.  STIs aren’t a consequence. They’re inevitable.  from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcIl-hclrLI

Melbourne Sexual Health Centre. (December 2017)  Herpes. from http://www.mshc.org.au/SexualHealthInformation/SexualHealthFactSheets/Herpes#.W27LDJMzYWo