I was diagnosed with herpes this weekend. Please anecdote me.
May 5, 2015 6:42 AM   Subscribe

I feel guilty that my SO has to deal with this through no fault of his own. Our sex life is amazing and I know this would put a damper on it. He's supportive, but I worry that that might change.

I still need serologic tests to confirm the diagnosis, but the doctor at urgent care (and myself, being a scientist) are pretty sure it is what it is.

I've been looking up fact sheets, statistics, availability of support groups in my area, and trying to identify a supportive physician to help me manage this illness that will follow me around for the rest of my life.

My biggest panic right now is how I feel with regard to my SO. He and I have been together for two years - during that time I've been pregnant once and miscarried, he was ecstatic and sad when it didn't work out - we're talking about moving in together, getting married, he recently took me home to meet his entire family... we're good and happy and consider ourselves blessed to have each other.

Immediately after the diagnosis, I called him to let him know. He said, "Wow. Hold on, I'll come over." Left work and drove to my house, and he said that, yes, he's freaking out, because we had sex at the beginning of my first outbreak (I had zero clue what it was) and obviously doesn't want to have it. At the same time, he said we're fine and he loves me, wants to be educated on what his risks are if he doesn't have it and what the consequences are if he did get it, what measures we can put in place to manage this, and how this may potentially impact pregnancy and childbirth. He is going to see his doctor ASAP, both to get tested and his questions answered, and then the plan is we go together to see his doctor and/ or mine. He had to go back to work, but spent the night at my place holding me and telling me he loved me. He didn't want me to cry initially, but when I said that was how I was expressing my emotions, he said he wanted his [usually] logical, reasonable scientist girlfriend back so we could begin to work through this.

So on all fronts, he's being supportive. Yet, I worry. Once the initial shock wears off, is he going to look at me and think that I'm tainted, resent having to wear a condom every time we have sex (I also plan on taking the daily Valtrex to reduce frequency and length of outbreaks)? He said he doesn't think I cheated on him, but is pretty sure he doesn't have it. I have only had unprotected sex with four people ever (and I'm 35), so I have no idea who I may have contracted it from. I feel panicked, because he said he wants to understand all of the risks associated with herpes, and yesterday was hesitant to kiss me. I completely understand, but that hurt so much. On top of that, I need him right now for emotional support, but I also don't want to lean on him too much because I'm sure he's going through his own turmoil right now, and isn't the type to talk about his feelings at all. He deals with stress by taking time out - sort of what I absolutely don't want right now, but I'm trying to respect his need for space.

I feel guilty that he has to deal with a herpes-infected girlfriend when there's so many amazing women out there that would make him happy. I worry about using towels, about the toilet seat, about putting my underwear in the same hamper, or if/when we have kids, passing something on to them. I am pretty, and dress well, but when I think of what's going on down there I feel ugly and disgusting. There's also a part of me that worries that I might put ideas in his head and project my own fears and insecurities on to him and that would turn him away. In the midst of one of my breakdowns yesterday I told him that we were talking about building a life together and now I felt like that's been snatched away from us because of me. I'm sure he would go to couples therapy with me, so that's an option once we've both got our fill of information.

1. Do you - or anyone you know - have stories on discordant couples that made it? How did they do it? Condoms and a daily pill? We both dislike protected sex, and like I said, our sex life is amazing... but we're willing to do what it takes.

2. I'm in the middle of a pretty nasty outbreak, and I can expect a couple more within the year from what I've read. It would help if I could find a medical professional that would give me kind, supportive, informative care, but I'm not sure how I would specifically filter for those qualities - any tips on that end would be greatly appreciated.

3. I understand that I am in control of my own psychology on this one. Usually I'm good with processing information - it calms me down. But because this is something I can't talk to with those near and dear to me, your words of encouragement and advice and real-life experience would be invaluable. I'm having a hard time keeping it together - even though I consider myself a strong individual - but this has crushed me. Sort of like... I'm so careful, haven't slept around, casual sex was never something I did... so why and and how did this happen? Is there a chance my current boyfriend gave it to me but he just doesn't know that he's had it? Would a blood test definitively confirm whether he has it or not? I read that brutal first outbreaks happen very soon after infection, which would mean I haven't had the virus before... but I don't know. So many questions, so much pain.

Thank you, MeFites.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
1. Yes. Lots of people. It's a very common STI. There is a reason Valtrex commercials are on prime-time TV :)

2. A good general practitioner or OB should be what you need. If they are shitty/judgey find a new one.

3. He should be tested, it's possible he gave it to you, it's possible you got it from a previous partner. All you need to do to get an STI is have sex once. It's a virus not a moral judgement.
posted by French Fry at 6:55 AM on May 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


It sounds like his initial response was to be comforting and caring which is a great sign. It would be normal, I think, to resist intimacy like kissing for a little bit if you don't know a ton about the disease and were worried about cold sores (a common thing people think is the same thing as genital herpes) as an example.

He will certainly go through his own worries until he gets tested and gets better information from a doctor on what happens from here on out, and you both may deal with some "where did this come from" paranoia with each other, but so long as you keep communication open and honest (i.e., don't stop talking because you think he has worries too) then you can get through this.

In the end, though, my anecdote is that sex with condoms and occasional health-oriented breaks with someone you love > sex without condoms with anyone else. My wife suffers from recurring UTIs and it involves us having bumps in our otherwise incredible sex life, but I wouldn't trade the whole package for anything in this world.
posted by buoys in the hood at 7:10 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


"He said he doesn't think I cheated on him, but is pretty sure he doesn't have it."

I don't think it works that way, unless he is "pretty sure" because he had a blood test at a somewhat recent doctor's visit. People often don't know that they have it.

Don't people usually get their biggest outbreak when they first contract it? Unless you've had more severe outbreaks in the past and somehow not noticed them (sounds unlikely), it seems more likely that he has it but has never had a big or noticeable outbreak, and he passed it on to you. He could even have oral herpes (cold sores) that he got as a child (this is super common) and have passed it on to you during oral sex.

It really makes sense for him to get tested before you worry about this any more.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:20 AM on May 5, 2015 [22 favorites]


It would help if I could find a medical professional that would give me kind, supportive, informative care, but I'm not sure how I would specifically filter for those qualities - any tips on that end would be greatly appreciated.

Planned Parenthood offers all sorts of women's health services and counseling, not just birth control/abortions. They're trained (and self-select) to be compassionate and understanding. I'd look into finding an NP or MD there.

I'm so careful, haven't slept around, casual sex was never something I did... so why and and how did this happen?

Do you know which HSV it is, 1 or 2? If any of your partners had the cold sore version (HSV-1, very common in the population) and gave you oral during a shedding period, you can in fact have genital outbreaks of oral herpes. (Maybe I should have searched for this in incognito mode):

In the past, genital herpes was mostly caused by HSV-2, but HSV-1 genital infection is increasing. This may be due to the increase in oral sex activity among young adults.

Source: Herpes simplex | University of Maryland Medical Center http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/herpes-simplex#ixzz3ZH3qqQ5n
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:25 AM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


My little one, I'm so sorry that this has happened to you.
It's a big PITA, but it is one that can most certainly be overcome with communication, kindness, understanding and education.

I have HSV-1, or The Cold Sore herpes.
I told my fiancee' pretty dang early in our dating. There was an initial shock period, but I found her some great threads right here on Metafilter and AskMetafilter about cold sores and how prevalent it was and how to live with it. I know to avoid stress, a lot of sunlight, aggressive shaving and certain foods.

We call an outbreak "The Visitor" and we just avoid kissing and other such things during the outbreak. She's been amazing from the get go, and now it's just something that we deal with, like daily chores or whatever. It's a part of our life, but it's a teeny tiny little inconvenience within the big love that we have for each other.

Your partner sounds like an awesome dude.
His first reaction was AMAZING and it bodes very, very well for the future.
Please allow him to have his feelings and thoughts during this time, as I'm sure he will go back and forth on this, but land right where he's supposed to be, which is hopefully right next to you!

I think that patience, along with some space and communication will do wonders for you.
I wish you two crazy kids the best!
I'm sure this is going to be just fine.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 7:46 AM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


A response from a member who prefers to remain anonymous:
I contracted genital herpes from oral sex with my very first partner ever. While the feelings you are going through are completely normal, I can tell you from living with herpes for 10+ years that they are almost certainly outsized. Herpes does not make you tainted or dirty. It's unfortunate that we live in a culture that often uses herpes and other STIs as shorthand for high risk behavior, and even moreso that herpes is so widespread that many of the same people who perpetuate this shorthand have herpes themselves.

By *far* my worst outbreak ever was the first one. Like you I decided immediately that I would want to take daily suppressive therapy, and I did for a couple of years (at great personal expense; valacyclovir was still under patent back then), but I eventually stopped taking it and didn't have another outbreak for years after that. In ten years I've had three outbreaks that I can remember, including the first one.

All of my relationships in my entire adult life have been "discordant" with regard to genital herpes as far as I know, which is a big qualifier -- tons and tons of people are unaware of their herpes status. I have never had a partner report new genital symptoms after being with me. With some partners I have used condoms all the time; I have had a couple of serious relationships that lasted long enough for us to reach a mutual decision to undergo testing and forego condom use, despite my status.

My first outbreak was painful, and the subsequent outbreaks were annoying, but by far the worst consequence of herpes was the shame I felt for the first few years, which is ironic because ultimately it was self inflicted. I'm not saying you have to go about shouting it from the rooftops -- lord knows I don't -- but cut yourself some slack here. If your best friend came to you and told you this had happened to her, what would you say? You know yourself to be a good responsible person. This is not a punishment or a rendering of judgment. It's just biology.

You might find that medical professionals are unsympathetic or indelicate in their treatment of you. This hurt me a lot when I was younger. I still remember vividly letting my knees fall open and hearing the nurse exclaim, "Wow! You've got HERPES!", and it affected me so much at the time that I lodged a formal complaint with her supervisor (during which I broke down crying).

Fast forward many years and I am now a medical professional myself. While I carry that memory with me and certainly try to have that experience inform how I treat patients in emotionally vulnerable situations, I understand now why it happened: simply put, herpes is super common. Doctors and nurses see it all the time, and as a result for many of them it has been stripped of the "dirty" status other people assign it. I know now that to that nurse, her reaction was no different than if I had uncovered my legs to reveal a case of allergic hives, and I feel happier and healthier when I view myself through a similar lens.

I hope this helps. It will get better. It will be fine.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:06 AM on May 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


I have two anecdotes about herpes.

1. Years ago I was "dating" a guy. We'd gone out a half dozen times and he never tried to kiss me. So I asked him if he just wasn't into me like that and he said he like me but wanted to talk to me before we made that step. He told me he had herpes. I asked him for info about it (since I knew little about herpes) - about getting it, etc. After a 15 minute Q&A we had a glorious relationship for about 6 months until I screwed up unrelated to any of this! The only way it impacted our relationship was we always wore condoms and I had my own bath towel (don't know why). I never remember him even having an outbreak. If you asked me to list 20 facts about him I would surely forget the herpes part.

2. My best friend found out she had it while she was with a partner(male). She was a mess about it. When I talked to my husband about it (with her permission) he was like "Herpes? big deal. You know how common it is? if [her significant other] has a problem with it, that is his problem". He didn't. I have to say I forget she has herpes until maybe when we are on vacation and she has a prescription bottle. It takes up very, very little of her thoughts these days. (When she does have an "outbreak" it is one pimple-like bump in one particular spot.)

I am not sure why the word herpes carries such a wallop. It's not even dangerous like HPV, etc. Come on, HPV cause cancer. The only time Herpes causes a problem is if someone has HIV or VERY rarely, when they are pregnant.

They say the statistics are likely one in four women have it. You probably know LOTS of people that do, but don't talk about it.

I trust you won't experience pain like this next time - my best friend has very few, and very, very mild outbreaks now.

It's not nothing, though. It's like having some skin condition, like eczema, that you have to consider. You have to remember to take a pill (I only mention it because it would big deal for someone with ADD like me) and to take care of yourself I always thought, in the long run, that Herpes was going to make a positive impact on my best friends life. If she was really stressed and rundown and not taking care of herself she might get an (very mild) outbreak. It was a like an early alert system "You are not being kind to your own body and mind".

I wish you had a throw away email on your post because I bet hundreds of people would pipe up "I have it, too!".

Sorry this is so long and Hugs!
posted by ReluctantViking at 8:10 AM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'd have him get tested right away. Isn't the incubation period for herpes like 7-10 days? I haven't heard of people having it for years and then it suddenly breaks out.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:32 AM on May 5, 2015


it's incorrect that herpes can't be dormant for many years. it's most common to happen within 7-10 days, but it can absolutely be around for years before your first outbreak.
posted by nadawi at 8:54 AM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


i just want to point out that there is a contradiction between your boyfriends desire that you remain scientific and unemotional about this infection and his declaration that he doesn't have herpes.

if the herpes has been asymptomatic for you for the past 2+ years, then it's also possible it's been asymptomatic for him, for however long. It's troubling that you are already going into this with the feeling that it is your "fault." You don't actually know that yet.

the proper scientific approach is for him to be tested immediately, if he tests positive then it is at least as likely that he gave your herpes as you gave him herpes and you both need to be honest with each other about your sexual histories.

How would you feel if he was the one who gave it to you? The problem you have is that you feel guilty and ashamed and undesirable and maybe you would rather not know the truth of the situation.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:12 AM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


you might want to tear down everything you know about STIs and learn it all from the ground up. for instance, you mention toilet seats - you might be interested to know that one reason toilet seats were historically seen as vectors for sexually transmitted diseases was because doctors wouldn't consider incest. according to abigail salyers, phd, president of the american society for microbiology, "To my knowledge, no one has ever acquired an STD on the toilet seat -- unless they were having sex on the toilet seat!"
posted by nadawi at 9:13 AM on May 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Unless he was a virgin and has been monogamous with you since you met *he* could have passed it to *you*. It's totally possible it could have remained dormant. I know confirmed virgins who got herpes from their first partner, and both were surprised because their first partner had never had an outbreak. Wholly asymptomatic carriers aren't as common as it is with HPV but it still happens. Long-term viral infections like HPV and herpes are tricky beasts and the path from contraction to symptoms to transmission is not as short and clear cut as you might get with chlamydia or gonorrhea.

If I were him I'd get the blood test for peace of mind. Though last I heard even those aren't accurate unless you're doing a spinal tap. Admittedly that information is a few years old.
posted by schroedinger at 9:34 AM on May 5, 2015


1. Yes, I know couples where one person is HSV+ and the other isn't and they manage just fine.
2. First outbreak tends to be the worst and they get less intense and less frequent as you go for most people. Anti-virals will cut down on outbreaks significantly.
3. It's very likely you got it from your partner. This is how my BFF got it. She was seronegative when she and her boyfriend started dating. About 2-3 years into their monogamous relationship, she contracted it. He apparently was one of the people who didn't notice an initial mild breakout and then never really got breakouts after. He also happened to be one of the people who can pass it even without an obvious breakout. She got a major, noticeable breakout when she was initially infected and they were able to put the pieces together after both getting tested. If your boyfriend has a history of cold sores, he could also have transmitted it to you via oral sex as oral herpes can also infect the genital area.
posted by quince at 10:49 AM on May 5, 2015


so why and and how did this happen? Is there a chance my current boyfriend gave it to me but he just doesn't know that he's had it?

I came to say, as others have already said, that it can be acquired form oral sex. The STI called "herpes" is usually Herpes Simplex II and oral cold sores are usually Herpes Simplex I, but you can get the cold sore version from oral sex as an STI.

Also, I used to get cold sores and as I got sicker and sicker, my cold sores became more frequent and lots bigger/wider spread and just generally more awful. I have spent a lot of years working on my health and I can't recall the last time I had an outbreak. It has been years. I used to get them every year, as a minimum, especially during cold weather and it got really bad for a while there, where half my lip was swollen and covered with pustules and it was just horrible.

So it is not a given that you have to have frequent, painful outbreaks. If you want to memail/email me, I can give you some no doubt woo-sounding thoughts on stuff that might be helpful in keeping it to a minimum.
posted by Michele in California at 10:54 AM on May 5, 2015


So on all fronts, he's being supportive. Yet, I worry. Once the initial shock wears off, is he going to look at me and think that I'm tainted, resent having to wear a condom every time we have sex (I also plan on taking the daily Valtrex to reduce frequency and length of outbreaks)? He said he doesn't think I cheated on him, but is pretty sure he doesn't have it.

As near as I can tell after re-reading your question a couple of times, you do not directly address the possibility that he cheated on you, and I think you really ought to -- in your own mind and with him.
posted by jamjam at 11:03 AM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry that you are going through this. I don't know if this helps or hurts, but here it is...

My wife and I are a serologically discordant couple (she has HSV2 and I do not.) Back in early January of this year her OBGYN ran a panel for no particular reason (she had no symptoms, never had a full STI panel before, and I suspect he was taking advantage of the insurance coverage.) The result came back positive for HSV2, which was very shocking and upsetting for her. She is 39 years old, had only a few sexual partners before me, and has never seen signs of an outbreak before. I knew little about HSV but was not particularly concerned -- I love and adore her, and this news would not change any of that that. The biggest thing on my mind at the time was whether I gave it to her or not -- I wanted to get tested myself.

Surprisingly, my test came back negative. I was relieved -- for my own selfish reasons I didn't want to be the one that passed it on to her. But she was shattered, she cried a lot for a few weeks. We have been in a monogamous relationship together for the past 10 years, so her last sexual partner before me was over ten years ago. During our 10 years together we have had a *lot* of unprotected sex. Copious amounts. Tons. After the first couple of months we didn't use a condom again. In those 10 years she's had no outbreaks, and I remained HSV2 negative. We have also had 2 children together, with no issues. She's uses the pill for birth control, and I don't want to start using condoms now. I've made the decision to take my chances -- we've gone this long without my contracting HSV2, maybe it will never happen. And if it does -- well, I love her, we are in it together, for real. I'll take the occasional inconvenience of an outbreak.
posted by nandaro at 11:24 AM on May 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


From a member who wishes to remain anonymous:
I'm a cis lady. I get cold sores. When I was younger and didn't know better, I gave a dude some blowjobs while I had a cold sore, and he may have gotten genital herpes as a result. It's not quite clear what happened, because there was a big gap in time, there were multiple intervening sex partners, and so on. At any rate, it was awful. Still, life went on for both of us.

At the beginning of my relationship with my now-husband, I disclosed this prior history to my gentlemen, who tested HSV-1 negative. He made a risk assessment that he was fine making out, but didn't want me to perform oral sex on him. After a couple months,when it was pretty clear things things were serious, he asked me to start blowing him.

I do not think he has regretted that decision.

We're now married. Our sex life continues to be super-fantabulously great, even though he now has HSV-1 at least orally, possibly genitally. I definitely have it both orally and genitally, with the genital HSV-1 coming during a period when we were using condoms for PIV, but having unprotected oral sex. After living with it this long/doing our research, we've realized that herpes actually makes 0.00000 effect on our sex lives, and since I had my initial genital outbreak before I got pregnant, we don't expect any long-term health consequences whatsoever. In fact, I don't expect the herpes will make any difference in our lives except that when our kids get to the right age, the birds-and-bees talk, my kids are going to get an extra-thorough explanation of why oral sex is still something you need to be careful with.

Life goes on after herpes. So does really great sex.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:09 PM on May 5, 2015


You are not patient zero. You're not the first person with HSV and you're not going to be the last. It is so incredibly common and so many carriers of HSV1 or HSV2 (or both) don't know that they have it, because they've never had an outbreak. It can be transmitted through asymptomatic shedding, so it's even possible that your partner may have been the one to expose you (and no, that wouldn't necessarily mean that he cheated, as someone upthread suggested).

Try not to get ahead of yourself with your worries. Take things one step at a time. You haven't even got your official diagnosis yet. You don't know whether your partner already has antibodies.
I think it would be great if your partner got a blood test for HSV antibodies now. Antibodies take weeks or even months to show up on a test, so if he does have antibodies and they match your serology, that would show that he had been exposed well before your outbreak.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 1:39 PM on May 5, 2015


I want to give you a hug! I remember how scared and sad I was when I got my diagnosis about five years ago. There's lots of great information here, so I really just want to reiterate that it can really be impossible to know where and when you picked it up, so playing the blame game is mostly just unhelpful.

I had a single bad outbreak (when i first got diagnosed) and have had zero outbreaks since then. At the time I disclosed to my last three sexual partners over the two years prior to my outbreak, each of whom got tested and each of whom came back negative. My current partner (who at the time I had been with for about a year and a half) hasn't even been tested but has never had an outbreak. In fact, his doctor told him that tests aren't terribly helpful unless you're actually having an outbreak, because blood tests can be misleading. I don't take valtrex or even eat that well; my doctor told me that as long as i don't need it to control outbreaks, i only have to take it if I get pregnant.

In the end, I think how your partner reacts will tell you a lot about his character and about your relationship. If it's a dealbreaker for him, you might as well know now, and there are lots of people out there for whom it's not even a thing. Here's a post about living with herpes that I really liked.
posted by redredred at 5:47 PM on May 5, 2015


I've had oral herpes (aka cold sores) ever since I was a little kid. As far as I know all or almost all of my girlfriends had occasional cold sores. I've never been tested (or even asked about it by a doctor) but I'm sure I've been at least exposed to both versions of the virus. It's honestly not that big of a deal and doesn't need to have a huge impact on your life.

You sound like you are handling this well, but this is definitely a time where a (non-judgmental and sex-positive) therapist might be a great resource. Sometimes just having someone uninvolved and unambiguously in support of you is a great thing.

Lastly, don't discount the value of acupuncture and just being generally healthy (and as stress-free as possible) in keeping your immune system in top form as you move forward. I get cold sores very rarely, but it is always a signal that I am getting stressed and run down, and need to adjust my life.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:23 PM on May 5, 2015


I get cold sores. I have had several partners since the first outbreak, which was by far the worst (ask me about how I got a secondary infection as well). I remember it feeling like the end of the world that first time. BUT the outbreaks have progressively gotten less intense and less frequent with time, and I also make sure to take Valtrex as soon as I feel that tingle. You'll start to recognize it too. Outbreaks are more likely if I'm stressed/not taking care of myself, or if I've let myself spend a ton of time in the sun (like 6 hours in the blazing heat, not like hanging out at a picnic). But I honestly can't remember the last time I had one.

My boyfriend and I take mild precautions -- during an outbreak, we don't kiss, I don't give him oral, and we don't share drinks/towels. He hadn't contracted it as of the last time we both got tested (before having unprotected sex for the first time) and still remains symptom-free.

I know. I know it seems like a horrorshow. It won't be this bad forever, and it won't derail any big life plans. It's also not a referendum on you or your morals -- there are a thousand ways to get herpes, and while genital herpes is less common than oral herpes, it's still...pretty common. You or your partner could have contracted it at any point in your sexually active pasts, and you're just now seeing the symptoms.
posted by Ragini at 11:39 PM on May 5, 2015


I don’t know if you still read the thread, but I wanted to point something out that hasn’t been covered that much yet. Look at what you wrote:

I feel guilty

He's supportive, but I worry that that might change.

My biggest panic right now is how I feel with regard to my SO.

I worry. Once the initial shock wears off, is he going to look at me and think that I'm tainted

He said he doesn't think I cheated on him

was hesitant to kiss me. I completely understand, but that hurt so much.

I feel guilty that he has to deal with a herpes-infected girlfriend when there's so many amazing women out there that would make him happy.

I am pretty, and dress well, but when I think of what's going on down there I feel ugly and disgusting.

In the midst of one of my breakdowns yesterday I told him that we were talking about building a life together and now I felt like that's been snatched away from us because of me.

I'm having a hard time keeping it together - even though I consider myself a strong individual - but this has crushed me. Sort of like... I'm so careful, haven't slept around, casual sex was never something I did... so why and and how did this happen?


I felt so so sorry for you when I was reading this.. It seems you feel so much guilt and emotional/psychological pain because of your diagnosis. You even worry it is going to be a threat to your relationship.. Unfortunately herpes is a disease with a lot of negative cultural baggage. THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. The whole narrative of being tainted, being accused of cheating, being unable to have a fulfilling sex life from now on, risky sexual behaviour, that no man would want to be with you/ have sex with you etc. is just utterly disgusting and untrue. For women the stigmatisation is even worse, because they are supposed to be sexually available while simultaneously ‘untainted’ by other men. The fact that you have a herpes diagnosis does ABSOLUTELY NOT mean you are somehow tainted, dirty, broken, unable to be in a relationship, unable to have a fulfilling sex life, promiscuous, a cheater or whatever. Don’t believe it and please don’t let it get to you. I hope this kind of (cultural, non-medical) information will help you process too.

Herpes is an annoying, painful but fortunately not very dangerous STI in comparison. It is also extremely common, more common than you think (especially when you are also taking cold sores in consideration). Why this disease carries so much cultural baggage/garbage is a mystery to me.

You are a wonderful human being and this diagnosis is not going to change who you are. You are still an amazing woman that would make any man happy, just as you were before.
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat at 8:09 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I want to favorite leopard-skin-pill-box's comment about a hundred times. I wish they had been around to tell me all that when I was diagnosed 15 years ago. I spent a good hour sobbing hysterically when I got the news.

I'd recently broken up with a major jerk (he told me when I was really upset that he'd only give me a hug if I gave him a blow job first) when I had a noutbreak. I'd tested seronegative before we started having sex, so I knew it had to be him that had given me herpes. I asked a mutual friend to go with me to tell the jerk, because I was afraid of what his reaction would be. He cussed me up one side and down the other, calling me all kinds of lovely things, and stormed off. Not quite as bad as I'd feared.

I've had about 10 sexual partners since; 1 cis female, the rest cis male. One guy wouldn't do PIV sex, but had no problem performing cunnilingus. Another guy wouldn't perform cunnilingus at all, but would do PIV with a condom. All the rest have considered the risk to themselves to be minimal, and not worried about it. I've always avoided sex during outbreaks (mostly because it freaking HURT down there!), which puts the chance of transmission from me (a cis female) to them at around 4%. If I used an antiviral all the time, instead of just when a sore crops up, the chance of transmission would drop to 2%. Antiviral plus condom, it drops to 1%. (Even married one of the guys and had two babies vaginally with him. Had to take a short course of antivirals around delivery time, plus the babies had to have eyedrops shortly after birth. Those were the only impacts from my herpes.)

You are still you. You are still rocking awesome. You are still loveable and cuddlable and kissable and huggable and sexytimesable. The fact that you have an STI doesn't change that. You are still logical, reasonable, and scientific. The fact that you got punched in the gut with the diagnosis of an incurable illness doesn't change that. You are still you. This is not your fault.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 2:07 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


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