[ethicsfilter] two of my friends are getting it on. one of them has herpes. should I tell the other?
October 9, 2008 8:34 PM   Subscribe

[ethicsfilter] two of my friends are getting it on. one of them has herpes. should I tell the other?

two of my friends, one very close and the other a little more than an acquaintance, are interested in each other. just to distinguish them I am going to call them 'acquaintance' and 'friend.' I happen to know the acquaintance has herpes.*

the friend keeps talking about the acquaintance and how flirtations are progressing. we are having more or less daily conversations about this and the friend is naturally excited. I am frequently asked for opinions, details and tips concerning acquaintance, if not outright help. I have reason to believe this is getting somewhere fast but don't wish to speculate about how serious they are.

I am conflicted about violating the privacy of acquaintance in order to be a friend to friend. were I friend, I'd hope my friend was watching out for me. were I acquaintance, I'd probably feel pretty violated were someone else to share such information without my consent.**

the acquaintance does not know I am aware of the romance or the extraordinary circumstances that concern me and my conversations with the friend lead me to believe that this issue has not been discussed. I do not think I am in a position to approach the acquaintance about this at all and suggesting otherwise is most likely not going to help me much.

the only two options I do see are either to tell the friend or keep quiet.***

which is the ethical option for me to take?

*I am not speculating but have no further details.
**this of course is assuming I'd know someone had talked but I'm sure you get my point.
***there may be a third option. suggest away as long as it does not force me to address the acquaintance about this.
posted by krautland to Human Relations (70 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They're both adults. It's their responsibility to be safe. I'd keep quiet.
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:38 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

What makes you think the acquaintance won't tell the friend at the appropriate time? Do you know for a fact that they have risked the transmission of herpes and your friend remains unaware? How do you know your friend doesn't already have herpes?

TL;DR: butt out.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:39 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would approach the acquaintance and tell them your concerns. If they don't, however, tell your friend, you must. Herpes is an incurable disease. To "butt out" would be to be no friend at all.
posted by Doug at 8:43 PM on October 9, 2008

If I were the friend I would want you to tell me. You can politely hint at it somehow without violating acquaintance's privacy.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 8:43 PM on October 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

Just keep reiterating safe sex, safe sex, safe sex without revealing any confidences.
posted by gt2 at 8:44 PM on October 9, 2008

I dunno. It's technically none of your business but I would want someone to tell me. Not everyone is honest about those things with their partner. Some people with herpes think as long as they're using a condom their partner can't get it, so they don't have to tell them. That's not true at all. You can get herpes even if you use a condom.

Personally, I think the risk of your friend getting a lifelong STD is worse than getting into their business. The worst that'll happen is one or both of them will get annoyed at you and think you didn't mind your business.
posted by Nattie at 8:45 PM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

What makes you think the acquaintance won't tell the friend at the appropriate time?
I do not know what acquaintance would or would not do. that is precisely why I am struggling with this.

I would approach the acquaintance
again, perhaps I wasn't clear: this is NOT an option. I wish it were.
posted by krautland at 8:46 PM on October 9, 2008

If I were Friend, I would certainly want you to tell me that Acquaintance has herpes. In fact, I'd be incredibly disappointed if you didn't and then later found out that you could have warned me. Granted, it's something very private and incredibly touchy, but I am one of those people who do not easily trust potential partners to disclose crucial information when it comes to my health (especially when doing so is very likely to lead to an end of the romance).
I think that herpes is not something to be taken lightly. It certainly has the potential to make all of your Friend's future relationships hell if they are careless enough to pick it up. Think about it this way--if you knew that Acquaintance had tested HIV-positive, would you tell Friend then?
posted by halogen at 8:48 PM on October 9, 2008 [7 favorites]

The third option is to approach the acquaintance. They are just an acquaintance, after all, and it would be better to reach an understanding with them - or scare them away - than it would be to risk anything with the friend. Especially because the friend would certainly understand your "butting in", if you told all.

The acquaintance being pissed off is an excellent price to pay, if it means someone you care about doesn't get an STD.
posted by Picklegnome at 8:50 PM on October 9, 2008

Didn't preview. Forgive me.
posted by Picklegnome at 8:51 PM on October 9, 2008

But Krautland, it IS an option, just not one you want to avail yourself of. It might be uncomfortable, it might compromise a confidence you have with a third party, but it is as close to the right thing to do in this situation as you're going to find.

Short of that, I'm with picklegnome: Just tell your friend. We aren't talking about a bad case of the sniffles here, we're talking about a serious, incurable std.
posted by Doug at 8:54 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

I would want you to tell me. I don't care how "up in my business" you'd appear to be. I would want you to tell me SO HARD.
posted by schroedinger at 8:54 PM on October 9, 2008 [7 favorites]

There is a "third" option, but be aware it isn't designed for third parties: InSpot. [prev] I'd feel kind of shitty doing this to someone, though, but if the alternatives are as you say impossible it's something like this or hacking your own disposable e-mail or whatnot. But it's less shitty than letting them get exposed unknowingly.
posted by dhartung at 9:00 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

"Friend, I am super happy that you're getting some action. I don't really know how to put this, but you might want to proceed with caution. I've heard around the way that acq may have an STD. I don't know all the details and this could be all rumor, but I care about you, so I wanted to let you know."
posted by k8t at 9:07 PM on October 9, 2008 [10 favorites]

I was in a similar situation, where close friend slept with an acquaintance who we later found to have herpes. As things happen, I later slept with the close friend, but before either of us knew. We're both clear (AFAIK) but the close friend said she most definitely would have appreciated being told about it at the time. She confronted the acquaintance who initially denied the allegation but later came clean (sorry).

Considering approaching the acquaintance isn't an option I think the only logical thing to do is to have the conversation with the close friend, but definitely, most definitely avoid doing it in an accusative tone "zomg ____ has herpes! gross!", they might have herpes but they're still a person and need to be given respect to the fact that they should be able to come clean about this on their own accord. Just say you recall that someone in your social circle mentioned that they had herpes and its not really any of you business, but just want to make sure they're cautious as they should be with any new sexual partner.

Just tell close friend, but be respectful about it.
posted by chrisbucks at 9:13 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yes, you tell the friend. Since when did we become such privacy freaks that we risk our friends health in order to keep a secret. However, when you tell her, you do so armed with tons of info on herpes, especially how it can be controlled with medication, etc etc to try and minimize her freaking and so she can decide whether to continue with this guy fully informed of the actual risks, not merely "omg he has an std".
posted by whoaali at 9:13 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why exactly is talking to the acquaintance not an option? Because I'm getting the idea that you just don't want to do that as opposed to not being physically able to for some reason.

If I were in your shoes I would talk to the acquaintance and let them know that if they give my unsuspecting friend and STD I would come kick some ass (please note that if they told my friend and my friend still put them self in a position to get it that's a different scenario). Then I would be sure to tell my friend to get both parties tested before doing anything. Then keep bugging them about it until I see proof that they did.

You should probably do that anyway. Be a dick for butting into people's business, not for keeping a secret that your friend really should know and can't fix later.
posted by theichibun at 9:15 PM on October 9, 2008

We can all hope that acquaintance would tell friend before that risk happened, but if I wasn't told and knew my close friend knew, I would be upset. Especially since genital herpes can have even more serious ramifications for females who plan to give birth at some point.
posted by fructose at 9:15 PM on October 9, 2008

p.s. you didn't specify the sexes of friend and acquaintance, so I bring up this scenario in the event that friend is a woman.
posted by fructose at 9:16 PM on October 9, 2008

It's incurable. Being a good, caring friend means "butting out" is no less of an option than not approaching acq. If acq won't say anything, you should tell your friend.

Anyone who says, "If I were in that position, I wouldn't want you to interfere," is either not being completely honest or not thinking ahead ten years.
posted by Mikey-San at 9:20 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Unless the acquaintance has given you some reason to believe that they aren't a mature and responsible adult, you owe it to speak to them first. That's the ethical decision, because you're protecting your friend and trusting the acquaintance.

But this sounds like a tough situation. I hope it works out.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 9:27 PM on October 9, 2008

If my friend knew the guy I was about to sleep with had herpes, and didn't tell me, that friend would no longer be my friend.
posted by np312 at 9:32 PM on October 9, 2008 [7 favorites]

Oh. The acquaintance is a patient at your... workplace, I'll guess? So there's an extra layer of difficulty here for you, I bet.

I'd try to find a way to strongly suggest that your friend practice extra-safe sex, or that she be tested with her new partner, or otherwise say something that didn't quite go as far as violating confidence. Even if I had to make an ahem noise a couple times.

Manners are hard.
posted by rokusan at 9:34 PM on October 9, 2008

I'm still at a loss as to why some form of communication - email, txt, skywriting, is 'not an option'.
Because - it really is your best option.

Secondly, are we talking about genital herpes or oral herpes (coldsores)?
And well, are you aware of how that works? Because, the only thing that makes them 'oral' or 'genital' is which area on your body got infected first, by one of two different HPV strains (HSV-1 more commonly on mouth but rising prevalence on genitals [due to not being priorly exposed on lips], with HSV-2 more commonly on genitals).

There are SO many people who don't realise that getting coldsore's on your mouth, can give someone genital herpes if you perform oral sex on them.

Now, 20-40% of young adults are infected with the HSV-1 strain. That goes up for each age category til you hit 90% at age 70. 2 in 5, through to 9 out of 10.

It's really, really common.

Rather than telling your friend that their acquaintance has herpes, maybe just make sure they know that having sex with anyone who gets coldsores, could lead to genital herpes. Even just an - urgh, that sucks, or 'someone I know'...
More information will lead her to make informed questions, and unless you have any reason to believe that the acquaintance would flat-out lie, you'll have made sure your friend doesn't get into any situation, unawares.
posted by Elysum at 9:39 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

sorry for gender assumption there.
posted by Elysum at 9:40 PM on October 9, 2008

Be a friend, tell your friend!! Even if the acquaintance has already 'come clean' you are not leaving anyone any worse off. And if this acquaintance hasn't/wouldn't tell your friend then they are basically scum, do not deserve any messed up kind of 'privacy'!! Like Doug said, this is not the sniffles.
posted by tamarack at 9:51 PM on October 9, 2008

Why exactly is talking to the acquaintance not an option?
I didn't go into that because I felt it would derail the question and cause folks to not answer what I really do want to hear opinions on. this isn't about me being comfortable with a possible confrontation but because of professional circumstances. were I willing to go into that territory, I would have called in assistance in order to find a way. I am however not willing to go there.

The acquaintance is a patient at your... workplace, I'll guess?
I'm in advertising but your example isn't a bad one. it feels that complicated.

Secondly, are we talking about genital herpes or oral herpes (coldsores)?
"*I (...) have no further details."

my impression is that there is a considerable number of people who do not disclose they have an STD and proceed to potentially infect their partners. I do not know if acquaintance is such a person.
posted by krautland at 9:58 PM on October 9, 2008

If you can encourage safer sex and making sure recent test results are obtained and divulged with a good sense of humour and no drama, you'll have done as much as you can do.

I've been in several social circles where this was a matter-of-fact part of friendship - being the voice of reason for excited friends full of excitement for a new adventure. I'm not sure what the atmosphere in your social circle is, though. Maybe you can be a trailblazer of responsible canoodling!

Note that herpes isn't always prevented by condoms because it's not restrained to tab-A or slot-B but can be anywhere there's skin. Also note that the blurb about spreading when there's no outbreak is absolutely true - there doesn't need to be any apparently active sign of the disease for communication to take place.

If your friend is given the encouragement to think things through from a safer sex and personal protection standpoint and then decides not to...well, that's your friend's prerogative and you've been the brave friend who cared enough to at least be a reminder.

...of course, you could always also slip some literature into a place where it makes sense for it to suddenly appear. People in new relationships are often looking for signs and guidance, and it may just be worth the risk.
posted by batmonkey at 10:27 PM on October 9, 2008

I'd want to know. I would tell them personally or use a throw away email account or equivalent.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:29 PM on October 9, 2008

Your two options, combined with the two impressions of people you just mentioned, lead to four possible consequences:

You don't tell, the acquaintance is someone who doesn't tell: your friend gets herpes. And you have to deal with the guilt of knowing you could have warned your friend.

You don't tell, the acquaintance is someone who does tell: your friend doesn't get herpes. And you safely avoid the messy business of who told who when.

You do tell, the acquaintance is someone who doesn't tell: your friend doesn't get herpes, because they stay the hell away when they realise what's going on. Your friend thanks you, and the acquaintance is none the wiser.

You do tell, the acquaintance is someone who does tell: your friend doesn't get herpes, does get to have a safe relationship, thanks you, and the acquaintance is none the wiser (because your friend said 'I'm really careful about STDs- are you safe?' instead of 'krautland told me you have herpes').

Basically, if you don't tell then your friend might get herpes. If you do tell, they wont (or at least, they have the information to act wisely and avoid it). If you handle it tactfully, and your friend does too, then your name isn't mentioned to acquaintance and everything's fine.

So: tell them.
posted by twirlypen at 10:36 PM on October 9, 2008 [6 favorites]

Tell the friend. You can always get more acquaintances.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:38 PM on October 9, 2008 [6 favorites]

Well, whatever reason that seems to prevent you from speaking with Acquaintance does not seem to bar telling Friend, since it is one of the available options.

Friend is more than simply "in danger", Friend is asking you if they are "in danger" by asking you about Acquaintance. To my mind, it would be a total dereliction of your responsibilities as a friend to not inform Friend of information that you are otherwise 'allowed' to disclose.
posted by birdsquared at 10:38 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tell. Someone's health is at risk. And herpes, while not fatal, is certainly not pleasant, and as noted upstream, can have serious ramifications for pregnancy. Tell via ransom-note cut-out letters sent from a PO box, or something else equally anon -- but definitely do something to prevent the transmission of an incurable disease.
posted by davidmsc at 10:45 PM on October 9, 2008

Tell the friend. This is his or her health we're talking about. k8t's suggestion is the most tactful.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:47 PM on October 9, 2008

Exactly and precisely what birdsquared said.

I would be completely destroyed if a friend of mine left me to get herpes. I don't understand how this is even a question. I mean, seriously, I don't understand. I must be missing something.
posted by Brody's chum at 10:48 PM on October 9, 2008

You can't cure herpes. I really would want my friend to give me information to prevent me from getting an incurable disease. Tell her in an anonymous way if you have to, but please make sure she knows.
posted by ignignokt at 10:59 PM on October 9, 2008

Er, tell her or him, that is.
posted by ignignokt at 11:00 PM on October 9, 2008

Like the last few commenters, I don't see this as an option--tell your friend. There's no compelling reason to stay quiet.
posted by timoni at 11:15 PM on October 9, 2008

I would be completely destroyed if a friend of mine left me to get herpes. I don't understand how this is even a question. I mean, seriously, I don't understand. I must be missing something.

My getting herpes in this situation would be a failure on my part, not on that of any friends who already knew the partner had it. My assumption and expectation is that my friends know that I'm responsible and capable of handling myself, and treat me accordingly. If a friend of mine assumes I'm a grown-up who can handle myself, and it turns out that they're wrong, that does not reflect badly on them or their friendship.

I would still suggest telling the friend, but there is neither this overwhelming obligation to do so, nor massive blame for failing too, it's just the safer course, albeit the nannying one. The lesser evil.

But since some people are morons about STDs, and there is a risk that you'll torpedo the relationship and the shit hits the fan, if it's possible, try to feel out Friend's views on and understanding of herpes first, and then use that knowledge to inform what you disclose and how, so that you can be as tactful and informative and discreet as possible.

(And be an advocate of Aquaintance as you do it, ie against any disgust or poorly considered reaction, since you are removing Aquaintance's ability to explain and defend themselves, and you are doing so without having the full facts of the situation at hand.)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:16 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can't really ask this question without telling us how you know that Acquaintance has herpes. You asked for the ethical thing to do, and without all the information we cannot give you that answer, but rather answers based upon personal thoughts or feelings.

If you tell Friend about Acquaintance having herpes having found out about it through your work, I absolutely hope you get fired and never, ever work in any public capacity for the rest of your life. People deserve privacy. You did ask for the ethical thing to do.

If you found out about Acquaintance having herpes through a person who is a friend of Acquaintance, you'll have quite possibly destroyed that friendship and you'll quite possibly lose the friendship of the person who perhaps inadvertently let this slip to a person unworthy of a confidence.

Someone up-thread mentioned the possibility that Friend may have herpes also. If Friend has herpes, Friend might be highly pissed about your stepping over the lines of ethical behavior. In fact, Friend might be highly pissed about that anyway, and if I was Friend I'd maybe never tell you anything I don't want put on the street.

But let's drop ethics for a minute here, assuming Acquaintance might be willing to do so; it seems as though you think that could happen. If I was Friend and you knew that Acquaintance had HSV-2 genitally and they didn't tell me, I'd understand that you did do the right thing. But now I'd (maybe) have an illness that I've got for the rest of my life, and regardless I didn't want to be angry at you or not, a part of me would be angry at you for not filling me in. You were my friend! WTF?!?!

Which is to say: Fuck ethics. Tell your friend what you know. Or at the very least drop very, very specific hints, things like "Man, that is one rockin' coat you've got there! You sure are stylish. Did I mention to you that Aquaintance has HSV-2?"

To anyone reading this: If you have even the slightest doubt, go get your blood tested. If you have even the slightest doubt about a perspective partner, don't drop your shorts until you see the results of the blood test they took. A lot more people have it than know about it.

MetaConfessional -- I was one of them. I got involved with An Ethical Woman who had HSV-1 genitally, and while I knew for a fact that I had HSV-1 (cold sores et all) we both wanted to find out for sure what was going on with me regards HSV-x -- up until that time, I didn't know that there was a blood test for it. Ethical Woman knew my history, and wasn't at all surprised that I had both variants -- she was much more aware of HSV-x issues than I was. But I was damn sure surprised, as I've never had an outbreak of any kind. Though the fact is that if there were fourteen different types of HSV- I'd almost certainly have them all, given the fact that I'm not a guy who spent my time singing in the church choir, or hanging with people who did so.

It's possible that I picked it up from the last person I was with prior to Ethical Woman, it's also possible that I've had it since the 70s. No way of knowing, nor do I care, other than the fact that I possibly exposed many citizens to an illness that ain't going anywhere; I've never heard from anyone that I did so, but it surely is possible.

Fuck ethics. Be a friend to Friend. This whole thing is a huge PITA; An Ethical Woman and I are no longer dating, I feel like a leper, it's like I'm unclean, an untouchable in India, etc and etc. I don't have the slightest idea of how to bring this up, perhaps over the salad on a first date (if I ever have another date) "Oh hey, this is some great salad. I have genital herpes." I almost wish that all of us who have it had a huge H on our forehead, so as to cut to the chase. Save Friend from this jive.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:20 PM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

Friends trump acquaintances. If I were Friend, I'd want to be told. If I were Acquaintance, and didn't tell Friend, I believe I would deserve the temporary invasion of privacy. The alternative is the permanent invasion of Friend's body. Body is more real than privacy.

Perhaps Friend could be reminded to be sure to ask Acquaintance about his/her sexual history as simply part of standard operating procedure?

Perhaps Friend could be told in clear terms about Acquaintance's disease, but asked to bring it up discreetly?

To me, it seems simple: friends don't let Friends catch incurable diseases. If Acquaintances don't like that, well, that's tough.
posted by Forrest Greene at 11:23 PM on October 9, 2008

I thought about "Friends trump acquaintances." I wondered if that meant, were the situation reversed—with Friend having herpes while Acquaintance did not—would it then be right to not tell Acquaintance, trumped as he/she would be by friendship?

I think not. The situation is that one person is in danger of having an incurable, permanent disease inflicted on them by another. Friend or acquaintance, they deserve to be warned. If you can be sure the one will not warn the other, even if you just doubt one will warn the other, I think you must let the endangered one know.
posted by Forrest Greene at 11:32 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think I'd base this on the age of the participants, and I realize this is kind of arbitrary, but: twenty-three or younger, I'd say, tell the friend. Over twenty-three, mind your own business.

I think by the age of twenty-three you should be well versed in the hey, before we have sex, let's talk about STDs/safe sex/whatever. Prior to twenty-three I'll make some allowances for your friend maybe not being 100% ready, all of the time, sober or not, to be willing to have the difficult conversations that go along with having a sex life with other adults who had a prior sexual history.

If you're over the age of twenty-three and sleeping with people without having a conversation about this stuff, you're on your own, kiddo.

Also, I'm sure people have said this above, but herpes aside, it's possible for people to have STDs and not know it so it's a good idea for people to use condoms anyway.

Apologies to the perfectly capable of adult-level sexual responsibility twenty-three year olds. I know you're out there. I malign you only out of my own memory of being twenty-three and surrounded by twenty-three year olds, or even worse, twenty-two and surrounded by twenty-two year olds.

More than fifteen years later, I'm amazed we're not all walking around covered in spots.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:04 AM on October 10, 2008

I am conflicted about violating the privacy of acquaintance in order to be a friend to friend . . .
. . .which is the ethical option for me to take?

Both options seem ethical. You just have to decide which ethical imperative is more important to you. I know what I would do, but then my ethical values may be different from yours and so my (and others') opinion are really irrelevant
posted by Neiltupper at 1:05 AM on October 10, 2008

I am conflicted about violating the privacy of acquaintance in order to be a friend to friend. [...] which is the ethical option for me to take?

I'm going to disagree with a lot of people posting in this thread and say: If you want to have doctor-grade medical ethics you wouldn't gossip about people's confidential medical histories.

I mean, if you want to say "I respect people's privacy" you have to respect it even when there's a temptation not to. Saying "I respect people's privacy, except when I think one of my friends would like to hear the private stuff" is like saying "I can resist anything except temptation".

On the other hand, maybe your life doesn't call for doctor-grade medical ethics - and probably most of the world's population does not respect people's privacy as I have defined it above.

IMHO if you give your friend a box of condoms and a warning about the dangers of STDs you've done all you can without violating acquaintance's privacy.
posted by Mike1024 at 2:11 AM on October 10, 2008

Odd question, mostly because, as you refer to the one you'd be 'ratting out' as an acquaintance, rather than a friend, I don't see why doing the right thing by your friend isn't the automatic response.

Be that in approaching the acquaintance and saying you know about the relationship, and is they don't tell friend, than you will have to, for... obvious and moral reasons, ffs! Or just go to your friend and tell them, again, because otherwise you're leaving this person at risk, based on whether your acquaintance is going to be an asshole or not.

It's really down to whether you care about your friend.

I get the arguments about privacy, and gossip. But, one of these people is described as your friend. If a friend of mine knew something like that, and neglected to tell me, I would be forced to completely change the way I thought about that friendship!
posted by opsin at 2:23 AM on October 10, 2008

1. You have an obligation to protect Friend from an incurable and sometimes invisible disease against which safe sex is insufficient protection.

2. You have an obligation to Aquaintance to respect their privacy and not screw up their love life without good reason.

This is why under normal circumstances, I would always recommend going straight to Acquaintance and saying 'Congrats on hooking up with Friend. Good choice. So, when are you going to tell Friend about the Herpes?'

Since you say being direct like this is not an option, is there any way at all you could get the same message across obliquely?

Does Acquaintance realise that you're friends with Friend? If not, then just finding an opportunity to reveal how close you are to Friend may be enough to make Acquaintance 'fess up. Especially if accompanied by a generic "Hey, I wish you every happiness, but if you ever hurt, lie to or cheat on Friend, I'll kill ya!" You don't have to overtly mention Herpes.

Does Acquaintance realise that you know about their condition? If not, then you could send Acquaintance the anonymous letter. Give them a deadline to confess to Friend before you do it for them. At least then you haven't taken it utterly out of their hands.

Is there a possibility that Acquaintance has already told Friend and Friend is just keeping quiet about it? If a love interest told me they had Herpes, I'd most likely keep it to myself, even if I were talking to friends about the other aspects of the relationship. Especially if I'd had no previous indications as to how informed or prejudiced those friends were on the subject.

The bottom line is 'Give Acquaintance every opportunity to tell Friend. If they don't, then you should.'
posted by the latin mouse at 3:32 AM on October 10, 2008

The only dilemma I see is how to tell the friend. Do you do it personally or just drop an anon email or some such.

Frankly, not telling your friend is not an option, IMO. If you do not tell, then you aren't a friend.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:26 AM on October 10, 2008

If you are not willing to go to the acquaintance (which I agree is your most probably successful, ethical option), then you must find a way to tell your friend.

You can beat around the bush, but I personally think the possibility is too high for that to make communication about this vital issue fail.

I say this even having once been used as a pawn by someone to fuck up someone else's relationship by telling me that that someone else's potential partner had herpes. I ended up being the bearer of not only bad news, but false news, designed to throw a wrench into a developing relationship. So I will give you the advice that you should try to be as non-accusatory as possible, but still do find a way to give as much information to your friend as you can. Perhaps you can tell your friend what you can't tell us: how you know what you know, and why you worry that it's true.
posted by kalessin at 5:30 AM on October 10, 2008

I have a friend who didn't tell her s/o about her herpes until WAYYYYY late in the relationship and it seemed pretty... sketchy to me. But hey, not my genitals, not my problem.

I would just casually ask how things are going and if things are getting serious, you could maybe drop a "Hey, have you been tested recently? I was tested last week, blah blah blah" into the conversation. That's just common sense. Anything more than that is TOTALLY butting in and no, you should not place your butt into other people's sex lives unless they ASK you to.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:41 AM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by pearlybob at 6:15 AM on October 10, 2008

If you decide not to tell Friend directly, at least do what grapefruitmoon suggests above - push Friend to get tested and to have the acquaintance tested as well. It might not sound like the most casual thing in the world, but as you say, your friend brings up the relationship often.

You could say something like, "wow, that's getting pretty serious! Have you been tested? Has he (or she?) Really, he (or she) hasn't? Hmm... that's kind of bizarre. When are you going to get around to that? Before you sleep together, right? 'Cause you really should...."

If you do end up telling your friend directly, please stress how you would like to keep the confidentiality between the two of you. There are many ways that the friend could bring it up to the acquaintance without you being involved.
posted by amicamentis at 6:53 AM on October 10, 2008

Email Friend this thread. Ask him/her what he/she thinks is the right thing to do.
posted by Wet Spot at 6:58 AM on October 10, 2008

A good friend of mine received herpes from someone she had a dalliance with who either didn't know or didn't feel like telling her. I guarantee you, if I could have told her and faced a rain of fire, I would have done it, now she has it for life and it is a cross to bear.
posted by Ponderance at 7:36 AM on October 10, 2008

Wet Spot, good answer!
posted by Ponderance at 7:36 AM on October 10, 2008

You are not the STD police. It is not your job to keep tabs on who may have what and navigate a delicious moral crisis every time they wind up hooking up with someone.

You are not responsible for the sexual decisions your friends make. It is their job to evaluate sexual risks and decide whether to proceed. If the acquaintance tells the friend, and the friend decides it's worth the risk, it's not likely that news of this will ever reach your ears. You know why? Because everyone knows it's none of your business except you.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 7:49 AM on October 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

I was once Friend in your scenario. My other friend (you in this scenario) told me that Acquaintance had herpes.

I was ever so grateful and it didn't occur to me for a second that she was butting into our business.
posted by desjardins at 8:25 AM on October 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

You already know what you have to do. You would certainly like to know if a potential lover had an std. This seems simple to me, and to most other people posting.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:34 AM on October 10, 2008

Inspector.Gadget: "What makes you think the acquaintance won't tell the friend at the appropriate time? Do you know for a fact that they have risked the transmission of herpes and your friend remains unaware? How do you know your friend doesn't already have herpes?

TL;DR: butt out.

Could someone please clarify the context of how "tl;dr" is used here? I thought it stood for "too long; didn't read" (and I'll not go into how rude that seems).

But in this case, the person using the comment obviously read what he was responding to, and it was so brief as to obviously not be "too long."
posted by WCityMike at 9:26 AM on October 10, 2008

@WCityMike, I assumed it meant that the text after tl:dr was a one line summary of their position, in case the rest of their comment was too wordy. I did a similar thing in my own comment, but with the opposite conclusion.
posted by the latin mouse at 9:38 AM on October 10, 2008

"By the time they're adults, only some 5% of people are bothered enough to consider oral HSV-1 a medical problem"

Given that you don't know whether it's oral herpes or genital herpes you clearly don't know enough to get involved. Practically everyone who ever kissed another adult human has been exposed to HSV-1. Genital herpes is different, but Friend needs to protect themselves, just as they would when they fuck all the other Acquaintances who herpes status hasn't been accidentally, and so unfortunately, revealed to you.
posted by roofus at 9:41 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

krautland, you should DEFINITELY read the info in roofus's link before deciding to say something. Without knowing the specifics of your acquaintence's condition (and your friend's own previous exposure status), you don't even know whether the risk to your friend is worth mentioning.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 10:29 AM on October 10, 2008

They're both adults. It's their responsibility to be safe. I'd keep quiet.

If you saw a friend about to walk into traffic because he wasn't paying attention, would you tell him or would you think, hey, he's an adult, it's his responsibility to watch out for these kind of dangers?
posted by orange swan at 11:58 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you saw a friend about to walk into traffic because he wasn't paying attention...

This is totally hyperbolic. Fact: herpes is an incredibly common condition carried by a quarter of the population, many (if not most) of whom suffer one outbreak and then no others, ever. In the absence of an outbreak, there is a decently slim chance of spreading the infection via viral shedding. Unpleasant? Sure. On par with walking into traffic? We're not talking about AIDS here.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 2:39 PM on October 10, 2008

[NOT HERMITOSIS-IST]: there are definitely people who share your attitude, but there are also those who feel that herpes is a big deal. If krautland's friend is such a one, then I think his obligation to tell him or her is greater than his obligation to tell you might be. I don't think there's one objectively right way to feel about it, and whether or not you agree that anyone should take herpes very seriously, some people absolutely do.

Long story short: krautland, if you know your friend is likely to care deeply about the possibility of getting herpes, I think your obligation to tell your friend what you know overrides your other concerns.
posted by prefpara at 3:20 PM on October 10, 2008

"Just between you and me, friend, may I suggest that you have a frank and honest discussion about STDs before you get frisky with your new paramour? I don't want to be the bearer of scurrilous rumour, but you guys should totally talk about that stuff if you haven't already. Plus I don't need to remind you of the importance of safe sex, I'm sure. Okay! Now let's eat this banana cake."
posted by hot soup girl at 3:26 PM on October 10, 2008

I think if you butt in you are essentially saying that acquaintance is a bad person who wouldn't do the right thing when given a chance-- so be prepared to lose that relationship.

The friend may just cut off the whole thing, the acquaintance will almost certainly work out why and you will have damaged what might have been a good relationship between them and between you and acquaintance because you decided to insert yourself into it with information without giving the friend the chance to do so in context.

Many people won't start a relationship with someone if they have that information-- when they are already getting closer, they may consider the person as a person, not a disease-carrier if that person is ethical about disclosing before any possible exposure occurs.

Think about how you would feel if you had a crush on someone and your "acquaintance" told that person this information about you, information that might not even be accurate.

If your friend is someone you know has unsafe sex all the time then you might want to hint that acquaintance has 'been around"-- but I think doing more than that, especially when you don't know if it's oral herpes that virtually everyone has or genital which only affects 25% and which is far more stigmatized, is making assumptions about the ethics of acquaintance that are basically that that person is despicable. If you feel that away about that person, fire away.
posted by Maias at 4:59 PM on October 10, 2008

I would definitely tell the friend. This disease will stay with them forever and that is not something to be taken lightly.

Just write an anonymous letter to the friend telling him that the acquaintance has herpes. If she doesn't take the hint send another. If she still doesn't get it at least you tried.
posted by Takeyourtime at 7:15 PM on October 10, 2008

my apologies for not having dealt out 'best answers' ... that option seems kind of inappropriate considering any available option ends up merely a lesser evil. most of us seem to be on the same page with their overall sentiments as I was and still am, so friend is going to find out.

questions like these make misanthropes.
posted by krautland at 8:59 PM on October 10, 2008

definitely definitely either tell the friend straight out that acq has herpes, or mention that it's a possibility, or send an anonymous email, or find that website that sends the email for you. and if you go the email route, make sure that next conversation friend has with you about acq, you bring up something that would remind friend of the email and make sure that friend knows that it's a concern.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 10:52 PM on November 14, 2008

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