Stephi Batliner is a London-based UX Designer who is on a mission to create an open dialogue about the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). She uses her own experience of living with HSV-1 (Genital Herpes) to destimatise herpes in society. 75% of the population carry the HSV either knowingly or unknowingly.

Within the framework of her Masters dissertation, she is creating a collection of stories told by people diagnosed with HSV who want to empower themselves in order to support others. By breaking the silence and encouraging the communication for taboo issues the myths and misunderstanding around Herpes can be resolved.

She explores the issues around the stigma on Instagram in a playful way and follows her passion for designing in order to express her point of view. The aim is to encourage a positive attitude and more openness around sexual health.

Usually, people are not afraid of HSV, they are more concerned about being affected by the stigma. The consequences of the stigma can lead to major life changing situations. Interestingly, there was a time when HSV was just a regular condition. The reason why HSV became a feared condition is marketing. Around 1970 a British company developed the first antiviral drug but could not sell it. The drug industry used an aggressive marketing strategy called disease-mongering to generate fear and raise the sales. The marketing tactic was so successful that the message spread to America. “Incurable” is the word which was the trigger for the stigma which is still existing. Most people are able to deal with the physical symptoms but they struggle to overcome the stigma. Nowadays, HSV is next to HIV one of the most stigmatised medical conditions.

The only limitation in life is a bad attitude.