I'm going to warn you, I'm getting up on my soapbox here.
Suppose you looked up "herpster" in the dictionary, and this is what you saw:
herpster (hurps' tr)
1. A person affected by herpes
2. A person who is avoided by others
3. A pariah
4. A social outcast
How would that make you feel? Would you be angry? Shocked? Irritated? Crushed? Ready to write letters to the publisher? Ready to kill yourself? I suspect that your reaction would depend on where you are with accepting yourself with herpes, but I can just about guarantee that you wouldn't like it.
Guess what? Substitute "leprosy" for "herpes" and that is exactly what happens to lepers when they open the dictionary. Leprosy is a viral infection, folks, transmitted by contact, just like herpes. and there are people who read this forum who have it. We don't enjoy being stigmatized because we have a virus, so it doesn't make sense for us to do the same to others. I'm sure that those who use the word "leper" to describe their feelings about infection mean no insult, but consider how it must feel to those who have it. It would be like someone saying in your presence,"...and ever since then, he's avoided me like I have herpes or something!"
Before you say that you're just using a figure of speech, think it through. Where I live, "nigger-rigging" is still a fairly common figure of speech, but that doesn't make it a reasonable or couth thing to say, especially around those of african ancestry. There are implications to the term besides as a description of slapdash engineering. I know you are aware of the power of language as an agent of perception because I've seen you hop on those who use "herpes" and "skanky" or "slutty" in the same sentence. So please, could you make a note to use the word leper ONLY to describe those who have Hansen's disease, and NOT as something you don't want to be treated like?
OH! And since I've probably already stirred some people up, let me add something else. "Clean" is NOT a synonym for "free of sexually transmitted diseases". The opposite of "clean" is "dirty", and if not having an STD means one is "clean" then it follows as kittens follow cats that those who do have are "dirty" and we know that ain't so.
Some of you may think that I'm picking nits here, but I really do believe that how we describe one another influences how we feel and behave towards one another. Changing the way we speak can change the way we (and others) think.
Thanks for listening,
M'sMom (climbing down now)