Dating someone who has herpes

You know herpes is the virus behind lots of things, right? To manage your cold sores , ask your doctor for a valcyclovir or acyclovir prescription. It cures them fast. I think the way nick handles his outbreaks makes a lot of sense.

Why Should I Date Someone With Herpes?

I think that in addition to the social stigma, there is this very lizard-brain level fear response to the idea of infection, even outside of a sexual context. That tension and desire to hold my breath I get when I hear some kid coughing in the supermarket. The visceral horror people have about leprosy, which is also sort of a skin condition. Even the whole genre of zombie movies. Something about contagious disease itself is inherently frightening.

To clarify this a bit! I also have HSV So does my mom. She got it from kissing family members at a Christmas party. There was nothing remotely sexual about it for me, and most of this was before I even knew what sex was. I just found the idea of catching something you have for life scary. I later had outbreaks, as an adult.

I could have had it from years, from some asymptomatic shedding kiss. But it did upset me a lot at first, and I did feel dirty and tainted. Not sexually, but rather more generally than that. I felt unfit for even platonic human contact. This was also many years ago and I was pretty ignorant about not only this particular virus and how common it is, but how our bodies in general are full of all kinds of viruses and bacteria and assorted passengers.

The microbiome is truly huge and complex: Many, many microorganisms we encounter in our environment enter us and change us. Some help us, some hurt us, many are entirely neutral.

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We all have microscopic mites living in our pores and on our eyelashes too. And while it upset me to know I had it for life, I also have the chicken pox virus which is another variant of herpes for life—I contracted it before the vaccine existed. Age and experience also taught me that everything changes. Things break, things go wrong.

So many things in my life have turned out for the worse, or left lasting scars. Some of the changes have even been positive, or at least things that eventually brought me somewhere worth going. I understand why a younger me was afraid of change, and why change for the worse was a terrifying concept, but I also see now that herpes or no herpes, change for the worse was inevitable. To change is to live. Most of what we experience we carry with us in some way.

But my animal brain is freaking out about the possibility of infection, and sexual desire is a very fickle feeling. No one wants to get sick, really. I also have eczema, which is a skin condition. The more stigma and shame there is, the more people will be afraid to get testing, and afraid to disclose. They can act on that fear, or they can research and see if their feelings change with more knowledge. And yeah, asking you in particular about it is callous and insensitive. We all bring our full personhoods to our relationships, and that includes emotions like fear.

Forcing themselves into situations just to avoid feeling like bad people is actually likely to make the fear worse and foster resentment. But they might also decline, go on their way, and catch it from a toddler who picks their sore and rubs their hands on everything. Or from sharing a toothbrush with a platonic friend. Or from platonic kissing at a family gathering. So it is pretty silly to pass on a promising relationship.

But people have the right to be silly. People have the right to be afraid for stupid reasons, or say no for any reason or no reason at all. Just as I hope others will be realistic about human biology, I try to be realistic about human psychology. Fear of infection, like herpes itself, is common and something humanity is probably stuck with.

Yes… it is pretty natural to be wary and grossed out if you see someone with a drippy cold digging in the communal silverware tray or someone with a cold sore offering you a sip out of their cup. Every virus ran through my family with so many of us. My parents, aunts, siblings had cold sores. And so it went. Chicken pox made the rounds. As you pointed out, genital herpes is not so different from a lot of these other conditions. Ella is right, it is a type of discrimination. I totally understand the fear, if not for the condition itself, but for the misinformation, judgements, and misperceptions that surround it.

The infected person was never being considered as a person to begin with: Or are you glad you have it? People should make informed decisions. I agree with jcalavarez on this. The notion of it being just a skin condition seems to be peddled moslyt by people who, as you ella have stated, had only one bad initial outbreak followed by mild, near nonexistent outbreaks since. Even after their initial outbreak, their outbreaks afterward continued to be anything but mild. The 2 people I speak of both take their antivirals and adhere strictly to their doctors regimens.

Yet their outbreaks are still erratic and painful. So herpes is not just a skin condition, its a true ailment one must live with that is painful and even sometimes debilitating. You say they are shaming you and insulting you by coming to you with their questions. You saying such a thing is a complete and unjustified over generalization. You have, through your fight to end herpes stigma, and your many articles about it, interviews on it, the popularity of your erotic novels, and even your current job at Ted talks, owe a lot to your activism for herpes. You have quite literally built your entire online persona around it, originally, with your feminist activism coming in second in terms of what has gotten you noticed by the internet and the general public.

Basically your herpes infection and your speaking out about it got you your seat at the public table, for lack of a better metaphor.

So you have put yourself and your status out there and as such you owe it to those who have supported you from the beginning, those who still do, and those that see you as the expert you have made yourself to be, to help those people who come to you with such questions. If you cannot do that, or have let the harassment you have endured stop you from doing that, or negatively color your view, then why did you start the movement in the first place? Also your disregard of people who have genuine, and legitimate fear for their sexual health in not wanting to contract an STI, is disheartening.

Your stating that anyone who is legitimately afraid of contracting an incurable and potentially painful STI is somehow cowardly, is much the same kind of hateful statement some of your more ignorant haters have said to you, because it rings with the same sound of ignorance and judgment. You also have this incredible luxury of your outbreaks being few and far between and mild at their worst, as you have explained. What about all of the people who do not share your good fortune? The herpes viruses, both 1 and 2 are not a one size fits all kind of STI.

I think at this point in your career, you have become so disconnected from the fact that it was originally your compassion for those with herpes, and the stigma they suffer from it and the pain the STI causes them that got you noticed. Your speaking out about it, your interviews on the subject, and your articles that you have written about it, got you where you are today and have made for you a social media as well a cultural presence.

It has opened doors for you in the journalism and even political worlds, that otherwise would not have been opened so easily for you if they would have opened for you at all. It has also gained you a much larger following than your feminist activism alone would have gotten you. As a result, you, now that you have achieved a modicum of success, seem very much disassociated from the feelings of those who helped propel you to the status you now enjoy and the rewards that came with it as I have already listed.

When you began your journey, you had so much compassion, not just for those who struggled with herpes, but for those afraid of contracting it. This article you have written is proof of that, and it makes one wonder, where did the compassionate, understanding Ella go, and now that she has achieved success does she even care at all anymore about the fear that still exists about herpes both from those who have it and those afraid to contract it? Very sad indeed to watch you become the very type of person you have spent so much time fighting against.

In a very real way, you STI has made you successful while your infection by the hate of others has robbed you of the compassion you once had. You talk a lot of talk, and are shaming this woman. We would never want to pass it on to someone else.

But we get looked at like we have a life threatening disease. Do you think someone with AIDS wants to give it to someone else? I consider myself very lucky. Something that most of us have never asked for. Not all of us are lucky enough to be as clean or as pure as you.. And it is bud. Because people think of it as a life threatening disease. How about you do yourself a favor and try and help out your friend who is really having some seriously bad outbreaks by taking him or her out and try and get them to meet someone as sweet and as charming as yourself.

Then take a look and see how people stigmatize him or her. Then feel their pain as if you were them.. You have given me a ray of hope. Hi Ella, thank you so much for sharing this post. It has given me a better perspective on having transmitted this STI. Just thank you for sharing your struggle. You made me feel so much better. And then I feel absolutely sick and horrible that I have it. Again, thank you for sharing, thank you for this. Thank you for posting this article. She only saw the negatives and downfalls. It made me feel like a worthless piece of shit and it Fucking ruined my day.

Anyways, say it how you mean it. Recently diagnosed and going through every emotion. This left me speechless and also so empowered. Now, oh how the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. I cried reading it. I felt like a part of me died with this diagnosis. I have to pretend to not be in constant excruciating pain. I have come to find out that on the contrary I have never felt more loved in my entire life.

Pointless rant aside thank you for your words, you make me feel normal. For example, what if sexual pleasure and intimacy is explored at a level of comfort for both partners as the two people get to know each other emotionally and romantically and take the measure of their compatibility? For example, oral sex for both partners works for both partners in the early stages of a relationship, and this becomes one of the components of trust that will lead to intercourse.

Or the seronegative partner wants to engage in intercourse less often at first until they come to trust their partner more fully in all areas of their relationship and increase the level of intimacy. There are many trust and intimacy issues that evolve: Obviously this depends on the expectations of the two people concerned, but I am surprised that a middle ground a temporary and ramping up middle ground is not discussed more generally unless I am missing it, which, of course, is possible. I just wonder if you think that may have also affected your experiences post herpes diagnosis.

I really needed to hear this. I know I have. I never even knew I had it until I got tested out of state after a casual encounter; there was no noticeable breakout to alert me. This has given me a whole new perspective, as well as talking points. I loved reading this. Most people find that their partners are both supportive and understanding. It is a common assumption to initially think that a person may base their judgement of you on the fact you have genital herpes.

However, for most this is a minor skin infection. People fear the possibility of rejection but the reality of this is that it rarely happens. Because fear of rejection is a concern, it leads some to question why they should risk talking about herpes. Accordingly, some people choose not to tell. Instead they abstain during herpes outbreaks, practice safe sex at other times, and hope for the best. This strategy may have more disadvantages than advantages. First of all, you spend a lot of time and energy worrying that your partner is going to get herpes.

For most people, the anxiety over not telling your partner you have herpes is worse than the telling itself. On the other hand, by telling your partner you have herpes and allowing them to enter into the relationship with full knowledge of your infection, you reduce the likelihood of them becoming infected with herpes.

Excuses create distance between partners and often lead to misunderstanding and guesswork. Your partner might interpret your excuses in ways more detrimental to the relationship than an honest discussion of genital herpes would be. Inaccurate and stigmatising articles and advertising have contributed to many of us having a lot of negative beliefs related to herpes that make it difficult to convince ourselves that others would want to be with us. Accepting the fact that you have herpes and are still the same person you were before will make it easier to have a fulfilling relationship.

The more emotionally charged an issue, the more important it is to find out the facts. Most people know little or no facts about herpes. Frequently, what knowledge they have is coloured by myth and misconception. Having the correct information about herpes not only makes it easier for your partner, it makes it easier for you. Following are some of the basic facts about herpes that might be important points to tell a partner. There is a lot of information about herpes.

Have educational materials on hand for your partner to read. Be prepared to answer their questions. What you say and how you say it is going to depend on your own personal style. Your attitude will influence how this news is received. Psychologists have observed that people tend to behave the way you expect them to behave, and expecting rejection increases the chances of an unhappy outcome. A straightforward and positive conversation about herpes issues is the best approach and may be helped by forward planning.

How long should you know someone before you tell them? Allow the relationship to develop a little. There are good and bad times to bring up the topic of herpes. Talking just prior to love-making is not a good idea either. The discussion could take place anywhere you feel safe and comfortable. Some people turn off the TV, take the phone off the hook, and broach the subject over a quiet dinner at home. Others prefer a more open place, like walking in the park, so that their partner will feel free to go home afterwards to mull things over.

This allows both people to work off a little nervous energy at the same time. Try to be natural and spontaneous. If you find yourself whispering, mumbling, or looking at the floor, stop for a moment and try to speak calmly and clearly. Look your partner in the face. Your delivery affects your message.


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The following opening statements represent a variety of nonthreatening ways to prompt discussion about herpes. They are not intended to be regarded as scripts. Try not to be melodramatic. This is not a confession or a lecture, simply the sharing of information between two people. Avoid negative words and keep the dialogue simple and factual: Could we talk about what this means for us?

Look for logical opportunities to bring up the subject. You might even be surprised to learn that your partner has been equally concerned about telling you that they have genital herpes or another sexual infection. In fact, the probability of this is reasonably high, given the statistics on HSV. People may just need a little time to assimilate the information. This is where having good written information helps. Consider giving them reading material or referring them to a Sexual Health Centre, the Herpes Helpline.

Whatever the reaction, try to be flexible. Remember that it took you time to adjust as well. Negative reactions are often no more than the result of misinformation. It takes a lot more than the occasional aggravation of herpes to destroy a sound relationship. Some people react negatively no matter what you say or how you say it. Others might focus more energy on herpes than on the relationship.

These people are the exception, not the rule. This is not a reflection on you. You are not responsible for their reaction. If your partner is unable to accept the facts about herpes, encourage him or her to speak with a medical expert or counsellor. The majority of people will react well. They will respect the trust you demonstrate in sharing a personal confidence with them. With the proper approach and information, herpes can be put into perspective: Regarding the relationship overall, know that you can have the same level of intimacy and sexual activity that any couple can.

It is true that in an intimate sexual relationship with a person who has herpes oral or genital , the risk of contracting herpes will not be zero, but while there is a possibility of contracting herpes this is a possibility for any sexually active person. And the person may unwittingly already have been exposed to the herpes virus in a previous relationship.

All relationships face challenges, most far tougher than herpes. Good relationships stand and fall on far more important issues — including communication, respect and trust. Whether or not this relationship works out, you have enlightened someone with your education and experience about herpes, correcting some of the myths about herpes that cause so much harm. You have removed the shroud of silence that makes it so difficult for others to speak.

And you have confronted a personal issue in your life with courage and consideration. Your partner has genital herpes. Your support is very important in helping you and your partner to understand what this means. When your partner goes back to the doctor, you may wish to go too, so that you can find out more about the herpes infection.

In the meantime, here are answers to some questions you may have. Genital herpes is a common infection generally transmitted through sexual contact. It is caused by one of two members of a family of viruses which also include the viruses causing chickenpox and shingles, and glandular fever. Usually, genital herpes is caused by infection with herpes simplex virus type 2 HSV-2 , and studies suggest that in some countries, one in five people are infected with this virus.

Genital herpes, for most people, is an occasionally recurrent, sometimes painful condition for which effective treatment is now available. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of catching genital herpes, regardless of their gender, race or social class. Genital herpes can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected blister or sore, usually through sexual contact. It can also be transmitted when there are no symptoms present. HSV-2 infection is usually passed on during vaginal or anal sex.

HSV-1 is usually transmitted by oral sex mouth to genital contact.

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If your partner has only just been diagnosed as having genital herpes, this does not necessarily mean that he or she has been unfaithful to you, or sexually promiscuous in the past. Your partner may have caught genital herpes from you. So it is very easy for you to have unwittingly transmitted the infection to your partner. The symptoms of the infection vary greatly between individuals — it might be totally unnoticeable in you, but cause severe blistering in your partner. Since the genital herpes virus can be transmitted through oral sex as well as vaginal sex, it is also possible that your partner caught the virus from a cold sore on your mouth or face.

Alternatively, your partner may have contracted the herpes virus from a previous sexual partner, perhaps even several years ago. The herpes virus can remain inactive in the body for long periods, so this may be the first time it has caused symptoms. If your partner is having a first episode of genital herpes, he or she is likely to feel generally unwell and have fever, headache, and general bone and muscle aches, as well as irritation in the genitals.

This may last for several days, during or after which reddened areas may appear on the genitals. These may develop into painful blisters. The blisters then burst, generally to leave sores which gradually heal, usually without scarring. The severity of this first herpes episode varies between individuals, but for some people it may be severe and last for up to three weeks if not treated. These symptoms should quickly resolve with treatment. The doctor should have given your partner a course of antiviral treatment.

This is an effective medicine which, although it does not cure genital herpes, can speed recovery and reduce the severity of the herpes episode. There are also other steps which your partner can take to relieve the pain of genital herpes. However, for many people who have genital herpes, the physical symptoms are far outweighed by the emotional stress relating to the diagnosis. There are many misconceptions about genital herpes, including the belief that it is associated with promiscuity, and these have given it a reputation which may cause your partner to feel angry and shocked by the diagnosis.

Anxiety, guilt, loss of assertiveness and fear of rejection are also common emotions. Your support can be very important in helping your partner to deal with these feelings and to minimise the effect of genital herpes on his or her life. Until recently, diagnosis could only be made by clinical symptoms and swabs from an active herpes episode. However, there are commercially available blood tests becoming available which can distinguish between herpes simplex virus type 1 HSV-1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 HSV-2 antibodies.

Get the facts about Herpes in relationships

The time taken to develop antibodies is usually two to six weeks after infection, but can be up to six months. It is also important to know that false positives and false negatives are common in these tests. Because of the limitations of a blood test to diagnose herpes, it is recommended you discuss the implications of the test with someone who has experience with them.

If you think you might be showing signs of the infection, consult your doctor. The symptoms of genital herpes may reappear from time to time. This is because once the herpes virus is acquired, it stays permanently in the body.

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Most of the time it remains inactive, but every so often it may reactivate and cause another outbreak. Each individual is different — some people never have a recurrence; others may have recurrences several times a year. However, recurrent outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first herpes episode. Certain events or situations can trigger recurrences, and you may be able to help your partner avoid or reduce the trigger factors, which may include stress at work or home, fatigue, ill health, loss of sleep, friction due to sexual intercourse, and menstruation in women.

If your partner has frequent or severe episodes of genital herpes, or if the recurrent outbreaks are causing a lot of anxiety for your partner, then he or she may benefit from suppressive therapy taking oral antiviral tablets continuously , which prevents or reduces recurrences. If you take the necessary precautions, the chances of getting the herpes virus from your partner are reduced. Genital herpes does not mean abstinence from sex or a reduced enjoyment of sex.

The continued use of condoms in a long-term relationship is a personal decision that only the couple can make. Most find that as the importance of the HSV infection in their relationship is seen in perspective, that condom use becomes less relevant if this is the only reason condoms are being used.

However, most couples choose to avoid genital skin-to-skin contact during an active episode of herpes because this is when the herpes virus is most readily transmitted. This period includes the time from when your partner first has warning signs of an outbreak, such as a tingling or burning in the genitals, until the last of the sores has healed. Also, sexual activity prolongs the healing of the episode.

Herpes transmission risk is increased if there are any breaks in the skin. For example, if you have thrush or small abrasions from sexual intercourse, often due to insufficient lubrication. It can be helpful to use a lubricant specifically for sexual intercourse and avoid sex if you have thrush. Sexual lubricant is helpful right at the start of sexual activity. Sores in other areas — such as the buttocks and thighs — can be just as contagious as those in the genital area, and care should be taken to avoid direct contact with such sores during sex.

At other times, there is still a small risk of transmitting the herpes infection through a process known as asymptomatic shedding, even if your partner is showing no signs of genital herpes.

This risk can be reduced significantly if a person with herpes takes suppressive oral antiviral treatment. If you or your partner has a cold sore, it is advisable to avoid oral sex as this can spread the herpes virus to the genitals. You cannot catch genital herpes by sharing cups, towels or bath water, or from toilet seats.