Savage Love

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2

After my initial panic, depression and sadness of getting herpes, I later realized it was a blessing. It scared off the guys who weren't really into me, and allowed me to meet guys who said stuff like, "If I catch it, I'll just be more like you." I know that it doesn't help for one night stands, but disclosing I had herpes made me feel proud of myself and worthy of love just as I am. I actually shed a lot of shame. Happily married forever.

3

I actually watched a really interesting Tedx Talk on this subject last year. I thought I was reasonably well informed about herpes but there was some information in there that surprised me. I'm not sure how linking works here, but I'll give it a go (if it doesn't, search Tedx STI and you'll find it) https://youtu.be/YcIl-hclrLI

I don't believe herpes should carry the stigma it does. But as an immunocompromised person myself, it bothers me how easily and quickly the danger to us is brushed aside. (And I'm not just assuming I'm at risk- several doctors have made sure I was aware the risk was there.) It really makes it feel as if we're an acceptable casualty (not a literal casualty, obviously). It sucks.

4

Wait, what? No obligation to disclose prior to unprotected sex? Isn’t this something she would want to know if the roles were reversed? Isn’t it obvious that the guys would want to know, since they are changing their decision to have sex when she tells them?

5

Also, the stigma may be undeserved, but it’s very reasonable to want not to have herpes. The guys can and should take precautions if they are worried about it, but she should be up front, especially if there is no protection.

6

Just looked on WebMD, which says that condom use cuts transmission rate by about 30%. Had not realized it was that low. So I would say she she really should be disclosing regardless of whether protection is being used.

7

HARM: If you are the reasonably intelligent person you appear to be, then you know how likely it is that you already have herpes. You also know that it's possible to get tested, but you have chosen not to. Why is that?

8

You're less likely to get herpes from someone who knows they have it and is on suppress e therapy than someone who doesn't think they have herpes.

And even if you DO catch herpes from someone, 80 percent chance you never know you did.

And then become one of those people who doesn't think they have herpes even though you do.

9

CDC says “Sex partners of infected persons should be advised that they may become infected and they should use condoms to reduce the risk”

But if @8 is correct, that would change my opinion (for people with herpes who are taking the drugs). Do you have a reference?

10

Is it true that a person on the suppression drugs is less infectious than a random asymptomatic person? (Sorry for all the posts.)

11

@10 @joeburner2 Yes. Antivirals reduce viral shedding by 70-80%.

12

@7 Actually, herpes tests aren't included in a typical panel of STD tests. In fact, unless there are symptoms present, doctors actually WON'T test patients, even when requested. I have HSV and my partner wanted to find out his status, and the doctor wouldn't let him get a test. This is really common. I've pressed every doctor I've had to give me a test to find out which type of HSV I have, and none of them will. Stigma prevents it from being offered, a blood test is expensive and inconvenient, and doctors tend to have a blasé attitude about it because it is so common. It's pretty frustrating!

13

Dear DTBA, I was once in pretty much the same position as you. A long-term boyfriend gave me herpes after we'd already been together for a year. I believe him when he say he wasn't unfaithful and that he didn't know he had it because his symptoms were so mild, he'd dismissed them as ingrown hairs. He didn't have symptoms until he gave it to me. We broke up for unrelated reasons and I imposed celibacy on myself for awhile because I assumed nobody would ever want me again. Then I had a drunken one night stand with a guy to whom I didn't disclose. I told him the next day. He wasn't happy. But I wasn't that into him anyway and was OK with not seeing him again.

Eventually, I met a guy I really liked. I was terrified of telling him I had herpes. But I did, after we'd done some making out but before we'd had sex. I think it was the third date. He got quiet and went home, taking with him the printed-out information I'd given him because I'd way overprepared for this conversation. I wasn't sure if I'd ever hear from him again. But I did. He said he'd thought about it and really liked me, and besides, he figured the chances that he'd already been exposed to the virus were high.

That was in 2005. We've now been married for 11 years and have two children (conceived the 'regular' way). We're still very much in love. I still have occasional outbreaks but not often enough to justify being on a drug long-term. (I have HSV-1 on my genitals, which does tend to be less severe.) He has never had any symptoms and hasn't been tested, though after all this time we assume he has it but is asymptomatic.

Something like this could happen for you too, whether with this guy or someone else. Sending love and hugs.

14

I have tested positive for HSV-1, but have never had a full outbreak anywhere (I get tingling, burning places on my lips, but they never turn into blisters). I was with someone who had a genital breakout, and my dr. said since we'd been together off and on for years by then that I probably had the same strains he did, but my body fought them off better. I haven't been with anyone new since then, and I'm wondering what to tell a new person. I guess I could just say what I said here.

15

Momo and Felix, prove that Instagram isn’t all about vanity. I agree with them, before any sexual contact disclose sti status.
LW1, bummer for you and yes, you need to tell him the truth before you two become anymore involved. Hope he doesn’t freak about it, it’s a risk you need to take.

16

I’ve had HSV 2 for 40 years and disclosing has never cost me a single relationship or even prevented a single one-night stand. I am asymptomatic for months at a time, and I guess I have been lucky to have never passed this on to anyone, because I understand you can shed the virus a few days before an outbreak becomes evident. My lesions (kind of 4 or 5 pimples) occur on my abdomen not my penis, so condoms don’t cover. Even so, every single sex partner I have ever had appreciated the disclosure and then decided to go ahead anyway.

As for you DTBA, do not be that * that hides this and ends up passing it on to some poor schmuck who never had the chance to decide for himself if you’re worth the risk. As of now, YOU’RE NOT! You’re a selfish, self-centered * (fill in your own expletive) and deserve have a heaping helping of karmic shit dumped on your hollow head if you pass it on. I don’t know if the woman who gave me herpes knew if she had it or not, it was a one-night stand. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt & hoping she didn’t know. If she did, then A) it’s my own damn fault for fucking someone I didn’t know, and B) Fuck you and all like you, I never signed up for this.

WOMEN, ESPECIALLY, CAN HAVE HERPES WITHOUT KNOWING IT. So, yes, “I just noticed this thing and got tested, and guess what” is a valid thing to say (Even if it is a not so white lie). Better late than never.

HARM~ you’re body, you’re right to set the parameters for who you love/fuck. Too bad for you, because herpes isn’t the Black Plague, you CAN reasonably avoid contracting it even with an infected partner, and even if you do get it, it’s an annoyance, not a death sentence. So, pass on meeting potentially great guys if you want because of your (yes!) stigmatizing attitude. Just don’t cry about “how hard it is to meet nice guys” when you yourself have significantly narrowed your dating pool.

17

You've only discussed herpes, but that's really the lite version of the question of disclosure. What about treated, undetectable HIV, removed genital warts, the other 100 strains of HPV, hepatitis C and HTLV? I would say no, no, no, no and no. People love to get on their high horse and say that your partners have a right to make an informed decision, and you have an obligation to disclose. But they don’t consider the mental torture that this view imposes on other people – as these letters show. It depresses me that these poor people are obsessing over something as minor as herpes and barricading off their love and sex lives for it.
I’d say you are not obligated to disclose your incurable virus if A. your partner is highly unlikely to get it from you through sex (UD-HIV, Hep C, HTLV) or B. It’s incredibly common and not that bad (herpes, removed genital warts, and other not-so-bad strains of HPV).
And sometimes, it’s better just not to know, so you don’t feel obliged to disclose. That’s why these doctors are saying not to test for herpes. I discovered that after I randomly added herpes to my test list and found out I have oral herpes, even though I’ve never had symptoms. Useless information. I get STI tested a few times a year, and I never test for HPV. What would I do if I found out I had one of the bad strains? I know a nice, straight boy who got tested for HPV, found out he had a bad strain and never had casual sex again. He felt he had to disclose to any potential partner. I think, if I were in his shoes, I would still not disclose, but I’d feel like a bad person. Better just not to get tested in the first place. And that’s another side of the problem. If the only way to remain a good person is to avoid gathering information that may affect your health, maybe we need to reconsider our expectations of disclosure.
My boyfriend and I are a serodiscordant couple (undetectable), who frequently have guest stars. After years of disclosing and lots of awkward conversations before sex (~90% yes, 10% no), we gave up. The guest star is not going to get it, so he doesn’t need to know, and he’ll have a better time if he’s not busy thinking about the HIV he’s definitely not going to get (Science: “Undetectable = Untransmittable”).
My sister once got a genital wart, and she was distraught. When she went to get it removed, she asked the Dutch doctor if she had to tell anyone. He just looked at her like she was being silly and told her she never had to tell anyone about it. Bless him. We need more people like him who can give straight answers, and get over this ignorant moralizing that is silently hurting so many people.

18

I'm shocked that everyone (except 2 of you) seem to think it's cool to knowingly spread herpes around. You all are garbage humans.

19

Deep State Operative @3 writes: "as an immunocompromised person myself, it bothers me how easily and quickly the danger to us is brushed aside."

Do you ask (well before sex and when the clothes are still on) whether the other person has gotten tested for HSV1 and 2? (And any other infections your doctors warn you about?)

If you don't ask that question, why not? Why assume people will volunteer that uncomfortable information rather than asking them for the date of their last STI panel and what specific tests got run?

I think everyone would agree that if you ask for specific test results and explain that you're immunocompromised (or have an immunocompromised poly partner), then people should answer truthfully.

20

Thank you, Dan, Momo, Felix, et al. for your responses to DTBA and HARM.

21

Dan the Man, I especially loved your bracketed question to DTBA ("Did you search his place for MAGA hats?").

22

@17 I agree that these things aren’t completely black and white, and that all your mitigating factors (likelihood of transmission, how bad the virus is, how common it is) are relevant.

But re HSV2, I don’t think my horse is that high, and I am not getting off of it. No HSV2 is not the worst thing in the world, by all accounts, but most people would much prefer not to have it. Yes, it’s pretty common, but a large majority of people don’t have it. Yes, transmission rate is low, but not negligible (maybe if you are on suppressing drugs it is negligible, I don’t know). So I think if someone has HSV2 and is not on the drugs, then regardless of the mental torture, they should disclose. And regardless, it is probably best to let their partner use their own definition of “negligible risk”, since it is their health which is at risk.

The stories are heartbreaking, and I am not judging anyone. If I were in their shoes, I don’t know what I would do. But the right thing doesn’t stop being right just because it’s difficult.

There are shades of gray to this disclosure question. I am annoyed at Dan for treating it as black and white.

23

@19 Does everyone really agree that you should answer truthfully if asked? Is that what Dan is saying? Not clear to me.

24

I don't, because I can't, view herpes disclosure as all that huge a thing. Because both my ex-husband's and my ex-boyfriend of some years had oral herpes, and, though they were unwilling to kiss me and we never did oral when they were having outbreaks, I feel like it's safe enough to assume that I have it, but I've always been asymptomatic. So what am I going to do, tell people "I've had exes with herpes, but I've never had an outbreak, and I live in the US and can't pay for random uncommon tests for completely harmless STIs, so I might have it but I don't know and also you probably have it too but don't know it just like I don't"? I suppose I could say that. But it seems pretty silly. I'm exactly as likely to have it as anyone else who's had sex but never had an outbreak. So what do people suggest one should do in that case?

I do get tested for the standard suite, mind. But "I've slept with some people who have a frequently undetectable disease and might have it I guess" is going, in my mind, a little bit far.

25

Lord: the opinions are all over the place

Completely disagree with @one. Sorry, not sorry: if I have a cold I'm not gonna kiss you and I'll probably warn you to wash your hands even if I try to hold them. Of course I'm gonna let you know that I have herpes before I have sex with you – just as everyone who has a communicable disease should

and, absolutely: it is COMPLETELY understandable why someone would choose not to subject themselves to the risk of a lifelong disease. no guilt needed. And how fucking codependent to think that you should "take one for the team" and subject yourself to the risk just so someone else doesn't feel shunned – hell I'll turn someone down for being ugly, having bad breath, or voting for the wrong person… But someone is going to tell me that I ought to subject myself to the possibility of a lifelong disease just so another person doesn't feel bad!? Give me a fucking break

26

joeburner2 @23 - I don't think anyone is recommending someone make up a fake test date when asked when they last got tested for HSV.

In any case, that's my own bright line.

I make it easy for people to say they have it by doing the hard work of bringing it up and normalizing getting tested for it regularly. (Oh, and making it clear that I don't think less of people who test positive.) And then if someone overtly decides to lie to my face and make up a fake date, well, that makes it easier for me to end things if/when I find that out.

27

Dadddy @1: "If DTBA's new boyfriend hasn't asked yet, mostly likely he already has it or he's knows enough about it not to give a shit." What sort of logic is that? Do people routinely go around asking each other, "Do you have herpes?" Never in my experience. If DTBA's boyfriend hasn't asked her if she has herpes, most likely he's a human being and it hasn't occurred to him that she might have it and not have told him. Or that HE might have it. One thing I recently learned is that because herpes is so common, it is not included in the standard battery of STI tests. You find out you have it when you get an outbreak -- which many people mistake for something else, like a pimple or shaving cut, then it goes away and you forget about it. DTBA's boyfriend may well have it himself, but not know because he has mistakenly assumed it would have shown up on an STI test. This is one of the things it's incumbent on the person affected to disclose, not for the other person to ask about.

Joe @4: You misread the letter. She's saying that guys were blithely asking to not use condoms, not that she's letting them get away with that crap. Hopefully her disclosure under those circumstances is making those losers reconsider their stance towards condoms. Though I'm sure with this attitude they are within the 60% already afflicted.

Biggie @8: Thank you.

Ais @14: It's my understanding that if you have oral herpes you can't also get genital herpes. So one approach is to only date people who have oral herpes...

Donny @16: HARM never said her partner was a guy.

Joe @23: If someone point blank asks you then of course you should tell them. Not disclosing information that someone may or may not consider relevant -- because they have herpes themself; because they assume, like Because @24, the numbers involved mean they've already been exposed; because you're not having an outbreak and are practising safe sex; because you want to see if this is going to be more than a one-night stand -- is a personal decision. Straight up lying is indefensible.

28

BiDan@27~ “...HARM never said her partner was a guy...”
True that. Funny how the old conditioning still pops up from time to time...I know I shouldn’t assume. Thanks.

29

LW2, you made your decision, why do you need others to validate it. Your call who you do/don’t sleep with, and why. Nobody else’s business.

31

"I know a nice, straight boy who got tested for HPV, found out he had a bad strain and never had casual sex again. He felt he had to disclose to any potential partner. I think, if I were in his shoes, I would still not disclose, but I’d feel like a bad person."

That feeling exists for a reason. It's because you're somehow equating the "mental torment" of having an STD with the actual cancer that HPV could cause in your partner.

Just because something is emotionally difficult for you doesn't justify unethical behavior towards other people.

32

I'm sorry, but I think you people are crazy. When my kids were little, I had people cancel play dates because they didn't want my baby to get their baby's cold. But you think that it's okay to not let somebody know that you have a lifelong, incurable disease, that could have flare-ups, potentially affect how you give birth, and possibly require you to be on medication for the rest of your life? Something that could affect your ability to get medical insurance one day? No, it is never okay to not warn somebody that they are about to potentially be exposed to a sexually transmitted disease.

33

LW2 says "herpes isn't dangerous". Given how many cancers we're now learning have a viral origin/trigger, this is a very bold claim.

Also, @17, are you seriously advocating for not disclosing hepatitis C, a known-lethal disease that can easily be transmitted during sex if blood is present?

This all seems like the reductio ad absurdum of the idea, all too prevalent lately, that the worst thing in the world is to make people feel bad about themselves -- as if one person's feelings are more important than everyone else's health, safety, or well-being.

Don't normalize dangerous diseases, or have the arrogance to presume that our present understanding of their long-term consequences is complete. Instead, open your wallets and give generously to people trying to find cures or vaccines for them.

34

Oh, I do love it when the hsv posts come around…

Story time

I’ve been married for 28 years; we were monogamous for the first 24. Then we decided to start swinging. So, we got tested, all clear, yay. Then when my wife as at her gyno she had a little pimple and her gyno said she wanted to get it tested. Odd but ok. Guess what? Herpes! But we’d been monogamous all that time, and I didn’t have herpes. I went to my doctor to get tested shortly after. He actually asked if it was possible that my wife had cheated, and didn’t want to test me. He said if I intended to stay married to her that I’d get it eventually anyway and there would be no point to the test. I went to Planned Parenthood, paid cash, asked for the test. I have it, and based on the number of antibodies. I’d had it a long time. And so had she. 24 years, no outbreaks for either of us that we are aware of. One (or maybe both) of us brought herpes to the relationship way back in 1987. We were truly those people who have it, got tested, got the all clear (no herpes test), and would have been spreading it around without knowing it. We were dangerous.

Was that the end to our swinging adventure? No! Here’s a few facts about swingers. They are very risk averse, but not very educated on the facts. We decided that we couldn’t hide our status, and we also knew that the impact herpes had on our lives the last 24 years was non-existent. Now according to SLS (swinger web site), there are over 1000 swinger couples within 50 miles of us. If you do the math based on CDC stats there would be at least 150 couples that have hsv2. Now, of course, like us, most of them don’t know it (85% they say). That still leaves 23 couples that might have it and know. That was good enough odds for us. If they see it in our profile, and we are reasonably attractive, wouldn’t they contact us? So, we put it right up front in our profile, and … crickets. Not a single email from any other couples. Now I know the flaw in my logic here is that probably some of those 23 couples would self-select out of swinging. But all of them? I have found a few (3) profiles over the years like ours, that are just up front about it. They are all people like us, who just couldn’t keep the secret. Well it turns out that there’s an hsv specific swinger site...ah that is where all the people are. We had some success with that, so our swinging adventure has a happy ending (lol). Interesting to note, several of the couples on THAT site also had profiles on the other site, profiles that didn’t disclose.

So, we are happily swinging along, and one night my wife told a girlfriend about our little secret(s). Both the swinging and the herpes. Well it turns out this girlfriend had kind of had the hots for both of us and even with herpes in the mix asked if we could have a threesome. I won’t bore you with the naughty details but here we are 4 years later and we are in a poly triad with this gal. She’s a doctor, she had done the research, and once it was clear we were going to keep doing this she requested that we all get on the antivirals, and at that point she also requested that we stop using condoms. We are all old enough that pregnancy isn’t an issue and at that point we were a closed triad so other sti’s weren’t an issue.

Now that we are pretty stable as a trio, we’ve resumed swinging as a group (we are fun at parties…lol). We stick to other couples that have herpes, just because that is easier, and we are all having a great time. I feel like we’ve mitigated the risk for our girlfriend, at least to her satisfaction. Its been 4 years and she still tests negative for everything, so it is working.

I think it is safe to say having herpes doesn’t have to be the end of the fun, and neither does disclosing. I also think that our story gives credence to the idea that, someone who knows they have it, and is taking the daily antivirals, is probably safer to have sex with than someone who is sexually active, but hasn’t been tested for herpes (see other comments re: the standard panel), and doesn’t know if they have it or not. OR as some comments here kind of indicate, probably has been exposed, but prefers NOT to test so that they have plausible deniability.

35

Also, this turn of phrase by LW1 is so calculatedly self-serving and so gross:

"On the occasions where I have disclosed, I've been made to feel like a leper by dudes who 10 minutes before were begging me not to have to use a condom."

Yes, of course there's a total 1:1 correspondence there! Every single guy who reacts negatively to an STD disclosure is just a raging hypocrite whose feelings and autonomy don't matter. Heck, giving them herpes would be just deserts, and schadenfreude at its finest!

36

Some HSV facts to consider:

There is no visible difference between HSV1 and HSV2, only testing can differentiate between the two types. Many people seem particularly concerned about HSV2 and those people should realize it is not uncommon among sexually active people and becomes increasing common with age. In the U.S., there are demographics in which greater than 50% of people have HSV2. Despite this, it is not part of standard STI testing and (in the U.S.) only 1/8 of those who have HSV2 are aware they have it while 7/8 are unaware, either because they have no symptoms or because they had/have very mild symptoms they mistakenly attributed to something else like a yeast infection, pimple, ingrown hair, bug bite, jock itch, etc. What this means is that if you are basing risk assessment on proactive disclosure, this is a totally ineffective way of assessing risk of exposure to HSV2 since most people who have it don't know they have it and therefore can't disclose their status to you. If a potential partner's HSV status is of particular concern to you, initiate a conversation about it. Odds are good your potential partner is completely unaware of his/her/their HSV status. Odds are good that is true of you, as well.

37

LW1 - I will add that I happen to know my status because I chose to get tested. I disclose my status to all potential partners. Most have been totally fine with it and able to put it in perspective.

38

Bookaday @32: Taking off one's clothes is "warning somebody that they are about to potentially be exposed to a sexually transmitted disease." Sex carries risks, everyone knows that. If you have sex with someone, with anyone, there is a 60% chance you are exposing yourself to HSV and an 80% chance you are exposing yourself to genital warts. If you are having an outbreak, that is the only time when you pose more of a risk than the general population. If you are having an outbreak, you should not have sex, unless your partner knows they have it too.

Coolie @34: Thank you.

Ytterby @35: The only problem with that is that she might catch something worse from them!
Oh wait, you weren't serious. No, every guy who reacts negatively to an STD disclosure isn't a hypocrite. Every guy who is happy to risk STDs then freaks out about an actual STD is a hypocrite.

39

@38: My point is that the LW1's construction implies that there's a 1:1:1 relationship between guys to whom she's disclosed, guys who freak out about her STD, and guys who don't want to use condoms -- in other words, that the Venn diagram between those three groups is a single circle, because they're one and the same, and EVERY guy who reacted negatively to her STD disclosure is also a hypocrite (hence undeserving of empathy, respect, or consideration).

Simply put, I don't believe her. It's way too convenient to demonize the guys who "freak out" by saying in the same breath that ALL those guys are hypocrites anyway so their reaction is reflective of their fundamental shittiness (and not, say, a normal human response). It smacks of rationalizing and "no matter what, I'M not the bad guy" thinking -- the kind of self-serving storytelling where you routinely make other people sound shittier than they are and yourself sound nobler.

We regularly call out assumptions, self-serving statements, and "spin" on the part of LWs. We shouldn't let this one slide.

And the part about condoms is pretty much a canard because, as we know, HPV and herpes can easily be transmitted even when condoms are being used. That doesn't make someone a hypocrite for not wanting to have condomless sex with someone once they know for sure that person has a transmissible and incurable STD. It means they're human, and that their risk tolerance changes based on available information.

40

I've never had any sort of social disease in my life, but will allow myself to say that, "I'd rather take the risk than feed the stigma," seems to merit careful consideration.

41

@38, BiDanFan: 60% of people have HSV, but only 12% have type 2 (genital). 80% of people have HPV, but a much smaller percentage fet genital warts from it. Yes, sex can be risky, but people still have the right to know if they are about to have sex with someone who knows they have an STD.

42

@ LW1, this was me. Everything about your letter rings so true to home I could have penned this letter. Or my wife could, rather. Because I was the semi-casual fling you are currently copping feelings for. Tell them, please. If this is something awesome and good, it will continue to be awesome and good.

My girlfriend at the time was terrified to tell me. After we started dating, she went the whole "I just found out about this, now I have to take these pills" route, which would have worked out perfectly for her if I hadn't noticed the rX bottle dated about 3 months BEFORE we started hooking up (I wasn't snooping, it was on the counter in the bathroom). I called her out on it, obviously, and she felt terrible. Wished she hadn't lied, etc.

According to her, it was the whole progression of things that made it hard for her to tell me. We were supposed to just be cuddle/fuck buds. When we started dating, she realized this person that she was only planning on having a 1 or 2 night fling with was now her PERSON. I was disappointed, of course, but I moved past it. Now we are married, it is the best and most fulfilling relationship of my life, and we have the most amazing, GGG, sex-positive, relationship a boy could ask for. Oh and I guess I have HSV-1 now too....oh fucking well.

Long story short: disclose. Don't feel bad. If it's as awesome as you hope it is, it will be still.

43

To follow up on my @42, I am also imagining my life if I had gone "fuck you, hit the road" when I found out. What a waste that would have been.

44

I don't have herpes and a partner having it would not be a deal breaker for me.

That said, a couple of things people with HSV can do to make dating easier.

1) Given how many people have HSV and how frustrating the stigma is, there are now dating sites for people with HSV. Here's an article on them
https://www.herpesdatingsupport.com/

2) Want to stay on the standard dating sites, identify yourself as having HSV in a way that other people with HSV may recognize but the average person won't? Put the number 437737 in your profile. That spells "herpes" if you punch those numbers in on a numeric keypad.

45

@43 I'm with you on that, if my girlfriend had passed due to the herpes, I know what a missed opportunity that would have been, and I'm sure she would totally agree that the risk was worth it, but I have to give her major props since way back then there were a bunch of unknowns, really quite a lot since we weren't really poly back then and the odds that we'd end up where we did were pretty long. We all feel like we won the lottery.

So, I can't really fault someone for passing due to herpes, I just wish we lived in a world where we could accurately assess the risk/reward of things like this. I definitely adopted the stance that anyone who would pass on me because of this is the one that is really missing out. I'm pretty awesome!

Good for you for keeping an open mind, something that was probably easier to do after a few months of finding out how awesome your wife is despite the lie.

46

What @17 said, complemented very well by EricaP in both her comments.
I live in Europe like shangers. I recently had a oral herpes outbreak and cancelled a date that had been planned. The man was very disappointed at the cancellation, eager to find a date as soon as possible. We’d met for coffee but this would have been our first date in private.
It seems to me the US has a much more extreme attitude to these minor viruses that most people have anyway, and I don’t think the European attitude is less sensible.
In the same context of men I meet online for sex, the couple of times people have offered to show me their HIV tests in advance I’ve actually seen it as a huge red flag... it means a) they’re not really aware of the three-month latency period, so are taking risks, b) most likely they’ll try in some way to not use a condom with me, wtf??! The standard should be to test regularly (not just HIV but all the other big ones) and always use condoms how casual sex...
But obviously, if you’re immunocompromised, absolutely request all the details, as in @18...!

47

My wife and I had this conversation before our first date. She had contracted herpes from an ex-husband who was having an affair. We agreed that it would not pose a problem as long as she continued the antivirals and would let me know if she had an outbreak. It has been almost 13 years now and I have not contracted it. I think the ethical thing is to disclose.

48

I'm one of the people this is negative for HSV-1 and HSV-2. I was also in a relationship for over 7 years with someone with HSV-1 who was regularly symptomatic. That relationship was open for 5 years and I dated casually after. While I'm always going to be a person who discloses, I'm also the person that requires all of my partners to get tested before PIV happens. Trust but verify. I figure if I care about not getting STIs, it's also on me to put in the effort to do what I can to not get them. So I require tests that include a type-specific HSV test (which Planned Parenthood still will not do for what I think are silly reasons). I've yet to come across a person who tests postive for HSV-2, so I haven't been faced with what I would choose in that situation, but my reasons for wanting to stay HSV negative are related to the vaccine progress that's been made over the last decade. If I can someday get vaccinated and be clear forever, I want that.

50

Just FYI - I’ve had genital herpes since I was 17, which is thirty years now. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who does get outbreaks, even after all these years. So I have a standing prescription for acyclovir, which works very well to shorten or abort a nascent outbreak. When I’m run down or stressed out, I take it prophylactically. I’ve been married for nearly twenty years now and despite thousands and thousands of instances of unprotected sex, my husband has apparently still never acquired herpes. He may be someone who had a mild initial outbreak and then never had a follow up outbreak - which is more than half of people with herpes. I’ve also had three vaginal births with zero complications from herpes. Herpes sucks, it’s extremely painful, and it CAN cause major problems in pregnancy, but overall, it’s not as painful as the stigma is. Be nice to people with herpes. It could be you.

51

I'm an older gay man who's been around. We all went through the HIV / AIDS crisis so played very safe for a long time. Now with PreP and such, condoms are optional. That said, if I have herpes I've never had a symptoms. I suppose if someone had an active outbreak they'd avoid sex?

53

Dadddy @52: Oh puh leeze. It is NOT incumbent on people who are on dating apps to ask whether their potential partners are married, or have STDs, or have genitals one would not expect. If a large majority of people WOULD care about a thing, it is on you to disclose that thing.

No, it is not incumbent on women to disclose whether they are on birth control. It is incumbent upon both parties to use birth control -- condoms. When they get to a stage of their relationship when condoms are not necessary, they can discuss other options, current and future. Most men trust condoms; if you don't, then it is on you to ask whether she is using a backup. (Why don't you just get a vasectomy?)

54

@12 I'm aware that testing for HSV —which I have — isn't routinely done. I only know I have it because I had symptoms when I saw my doctor for a routine visit. When I asked him if I should be tested, he said, "No need — you're a sexually active gay man, so there's virtually no chance you haven't been exposed."

My response @7 was poorly articulated. I meant that if HARM is so judgmental about HSV that she would dump a partner who disclosed his status, then she should at least confirm that she doesn't have it before subjecting future partners to that treatment.

I don't doubt that you've had multiple doctors decline to test you, but subsequent commenters here show it's not impossible.

55

No. I'm taking a hard line on this one. If you have sex with someone while withholding information that you reasonably believe could be a dealbreaker for them, that affects them, that nullifies their consent. If you have sex with someone with a partner when you are not on birth control when they have a reasonable belief you ARE on BC and you know that's a dealbreaker for them, you're wrong and a piece of shit. If you have sex with someone who believes you have a condom on and you don't, you're wrong and a piece of shit. If you know you are closely related to the person you have sex with and they don't know you're related, you're wrong and a piece of shit.

And if you have sex with someone knowing you have a sexually transmitted disease without disclosing it, YOU ARE WRONG AND A PIECE OF SHIT. As every incel and "nice guy" needs to understand, your difficulty with getting sex does not nullify or even impact another person's right to knowledgeable consent. The world doesn't OWE youbsex just because you want it. I feel bad about the stigma, but that is NO EXCUSE to take away knowledgeable consent.

56

Herpes can be severe, causing extreme pain requiring strong analgesia to even function semi normally and can make a person really sick through their whole body, with headaches, fatigue and nausea for a week or more. I'm not just talking about primary attacks either, this can be ongoing. Even with suppressive drug therapy, bad outbreaks can still occur affecting a persons physical and mental health, self esteem, necessitating time off work and missing out on other activities in life due to the illness. This is why people are scared of it. Not all people are affected this way of course, but this has been my personal experience, which is why I disclose to potential sex partners. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

57

I have HSV-2. My husband had it and didn't know it. He's never had a single outbreak or symptom (still, to date). We had been together 14 months, with 14 months of unprotected sex before I contracted it. While most people would start yelling about cheating or something, we have a great honest, open relationship, and my Doc said it wasn't the first or fiftieth time she'd seen a similar thing happen. He did not cheat. For sure.

Even 100% asymptomatic, he still sheds the virus about 10% of the time. After 14 months of tons of sex, we finally got unlucky and I got it. I had typical presentation, a short fever, a sort lymph in my throat, and a moderately shitty breakout. I was pretty devastated, but wouldn't have changed anything in hindsight. Still love my husband, and he feels way worse about it than I do. The anxiety about how often I would get future outbreaks was the worst of it.

I since have not had a single outbreak since my original one (now over 2 years since I was infected). Neither of us take anti-virals, so I guess we have a decent strain.. or something.

Had he known and disclosed in advance, I would have likely advocated for more protection...but I bet I would have given up on that and rolled the dice eventually.. and maybe (or maybe not) contracted it. After all, we had sex hundred and hundreds of times before I did get it... and I know now that protection wouldn't have been a saving grace either.

The funny part is, I thought I didn't know anyone with HSV 2. Since then, turns out (in an office environment of 9 people), 2 of the 3 I disclosed to that I got it-- ALSO HAVE IT. One is a woman in her mid twenties, another is a woman in her mid fifties.

Point is, you could literally turn this guy down, and then get married to a guy who has only had a handful of partners (my guy has been with like..8 people), and still end up with the herp after a few YEARS of unprotected sex. There are no guarantees. Even this monogamous married woman got it.

59

I think the woman must disclose if she's on bc or not IF they are going to have sex without a condom, yes. But if they are using a condom, no- the condom is bc, and if the man wants to know if there is bc in addition to that, he should inquire.

The existence of a stigma doesn't cancel out the requirement to disclose. You don't know another person's situaiton and you don't get to make decisions for them. That said, I also agree that in NSA type situations and hookups, most people don't know anyway, and the responsibility is on the concerned person to ask. But generally I'd say that if you are overly concerned with herpes or HPV, you should probably not be having sex outside of committed relationships in which you share verifiable health histories. Because even if everyone is very ethical and discloses every time you ask about it, most people don't actually know so you aren't really reducing your risks this way.

60

Want to add on after reading @55. I think it's a good analogy re: consent- and I didn't address disclosure from LW1. My response @57 was geared towards LW2. I do think disclosure is important, and you already fucked this up. You should have disclosed, then worked to educate prospective partners.

Disclosing now clears your conscious and makes you a better person, but it doesn't change the fact that you already exposed him. However there is a chance (see my previous comment) that you haven't given it to him yet- and he really deserves to get to make the call on his gamble.

However, we as human beings are not perfect- and if you're looking for an easier middle road between "garbage human" and "best angel repentance"-- you could consider telling him you got routine tested, and asked for a herpes test cause you thought you popped some symptoms (tingling)-- and found out you are indeed infected. It's still a lie, but at least you do the right thing and tell him now-- without the emotional comeupence (with yourself and him) about your lie from the beginning. This is not the "good person" thing to do, but it may be more realistic considering your pattern of behavior. Then, moving forward with future partners, do better- disclose, educate.

61

You folks who don't volunteer your last STI test date and ask for theirs before sex, do you just assume everyone you fuck is STI-free unless they bring it up? Or do you rely on phrases like "drug & disease free" and "I'm clean"?

That seems counter-productive if you actually want to reduce your risk of catching an STI. I recommend bringing it up.

62

I think both parties need to be active here. Ask if you know you have any immune issues or are avoiding catching the virus. Like you ask if any peanuts etc are in foods, because you are allergic to them. Ask early and Tell early.
LW2 left it too late, if they are so strong on trying to avoid the virus. Unless they have been locked in a dungeon, they would know these viruses are prevalent. She should have asked way before the other person could feel disappointed. For that her feelings of guilt/ regret are warranted.

64

I have HSV1 and have had it as long as I can remember. I’ve never had a cold sore or anything like that, I just carry the virus.

I truly believe the HSV1 has given me some kind of immunity or resistance to HSV2. Over the last 20 years I’ve had at least a half dozen women give “I have HSV2” disclosures and I went ahead and did it unprotected anyway. A couple of those turned into LTR’s, we had unprotected sex hundreds of time. I still don’t have HSV2.

I’ve come to assume the HSV1 gives me some kind of shield against HSV2.

65

Loved the response to HARM.

Smart way to frame the issue: you don’t want to get herpes because you don’t want to limit your pool of partners.... but you’re already limiting it by not sleeping with people who disclose their herpes.

Would you really rather A: not fuck anyone with herpes who’s informed enough to know they have it..... or B: not do that, which in the absolute worst case scenario means you get herpes and therefore don’t get to fuck anyone who’s squicky about you having herpes? I think the first choice limits your dating pool more.

66

And this week's Lucky @69 Award goes to.............

67

@53 BiDanFan: I nominate you winner of the thread. Bravo!

68

@33 I take that back, re: hep c. I don't know enough about it, and including it undercuts what I wanted to say about the others. It's not an STI, but can be transmitted through sex in some cases, especially for immunocompromised people. It's also curable, if you have good insurance or pay $1000 to get the meds from Thailand.

69

I got hsv-1 from a FWB going down on me about 12 years ago (he didn't know he had it). It was a summer thing that had been getting more serious as school began. After I talked to him about it he started trying to go down on me, maybe to show he believed I got it from him and that he was still interested. I was too embarrassed to say I still had the outbreak (it had been 3 weeks) and I just stopped him. I think he took that as me being angry, and we were going to different colleges 3 hours away, so things kind of ended at that point. Initially I was horrified and depressed and thought my sex life was over. I've always disclosed and it's never cost me a hookup or a relationship. I'm in agreement with the ppl who say consent must be informed. If you think withholding something might influence their descision to hook up with you, that means it's something you need to disclose.

I've been with my partner a little over 4 years. I talked to my Dr (just today) about the risk of not using a barrier method with oral if I went on meds. She said since I only had the initial outbreak the risk is pretty low as long as I don't have itching/burning indicating shedding prior to an outbreak. She also said if being on the meds made me feel more comfortable they were fine long term, so I decided to do that. :) No matter the level of risk, though, that is up to each person to decide for themselves, not for me to decide for them.

70

I definitely think that disclosure should be the rule. I also have a compromised immune system, and although I was not exactly risk averse back when I was single, I did actually turn down sex when the other person disclosed. I felt bad about it, but I also knew that I didn't want to intentionally expose myself. That doesn't mean that I wasn't at risk during other sexual encounters, but there (at least to me) is a difference between potential exposure and knowingly exposing myself.

It's even possible that I would make a different decision now (I definitely viewed it as way worse then it appears to be), but it should definitely be a decision that someone gets to make. I have always found the "everyone has it so I don't need to tell" argument to be extremely disturbing. I was actually misdiagnosed with oral herpes once by an idiot doctor (it was actually a life-threatening infection, which went on for days longer than it should have because of this), but the disturbing part was that he told me there was no reason for me to disclose (and he worked at a University Center). I just can't get behind that line of thinking.

71

A few things to note (off the top of my head, I really need to find a site summarizing this info—and do a fresh fact check while I'm at it):

1) HSV 1 or 2 DO carry risks of complicating childbirth, harming the immunocompromised, and IIRC (don't quote me) about 5% of cases lead to encephalitis—that's swelling of the brain, obviously dangerous. It's also dangerous if it gets in your eyes, I think I read. So it might mostly be low risk, but it's not no risk.

2) YOU CAN ALWAYS TRANSMIT HERPES IF YOU HAVE IT. You don't have to have symptoms or an outbreak or be "a few days out" from an outbreak. The virus can be shed at ANY TIME.

3) You CAN catch HSV2 if you already have HSV1 (or vice versa), but it does appear to be slightly less likely, according to the last research I looked into. Potentially you could even catch different strains of either HSV even if you already have them, but that's much less likely (I believe it's been researched). After a certain amount of time you will at least be protected from the strain and most likely the type you have (once your body produces enough antibodies).

4) Prevalence of HSV in the US is different by age and immigration status. Every decade the CDC (or some US research body) tests around. In the 80s the rate was around 80% for HSV1. Nowadays it's more like 60% overall. BUT this number is much lower among younger people, higher among older people (above something like 40?), and also higher among immigrants to the US (from places other than Europe, many countries in Europe generally having lower HSV rates).

5) It's true, lots of people do not realize they have herpes. I still believe everyone should disclose if they know, and that people should get tested, even though doctors are pretty blasé about HSV1 (although some doctors have asked if I wanted to include it in testing) (I haven't found doctors to be so unconcerned about HSV2, which has been on STI tests I've had). Either way, doctors assuming "almost everybody has it so it doesn't matter" are factually incorrect. Also, I believe the way you deal with stigma deriving mainly from ignorance is with more open information. (BUT moreso I believe that people going "ew, herpes" everywhere should shut their possibly-herpes-containing mouths.) Which isn't too say that it isn't ok to decide you don't want to be with someone who has it; as always, we decide what health risks we are willing to take, other people don't make that decision.

6) Last and least of all, herpes is singular! There is not a single herpe and multiple herpes. Minor peeve of mine that comes up a lot, though I didn't see it here. :)

Disclosing HSV1 is generally not done by most people, but I don't think it's great for that trend to continue.

72

@ hexalm in regards to your second point (you can always transmit herpes if you have it) I know you weren't talking to me, but I'd like to add I agree and there was more to the decision between me and my partner to use no barrier for oral sex than I put in my post. We are monogamous. We have been together 4+ years (knew each other 5 years prior to getting together and good friends for 3 of that) and plan to get married when insurance/finances make sense. My partner is considering going on feminizing hormones and we want to center non-piv sex before he goes on them in case they effect his ability to have an erection. I think this will help his anxiety over the hormones effecting our sex life. My partner is pretty sure he used to get herpes outbreaks on his mouth about 15 yrs ago. I would've liked him to get a blood test since I know I have hsv-1, but the Dr said it wasn't really worth it since someone can test positive if they've been exposed without having it. I think this is kinda bs since he probably has it and I'd like to know which strain. We're gonna see if another Dr will do the test. We also do still use condoms since neither of us minds. I think I said it in the other post, but anyways, I just went on a prophylactic.

73

@69 Kitten Whiskers: Hearty congratulations on scoring this week's Lucky @69 Award! May an incredible streak of good fortune shine upon you soon.

75

@55 TheRob. Good incel analogy, and good points about consent. Withholding herpes status makes it impossible for the prospective partner to give informed consent. I hadn’t thought about it in quite that way.

77

If all you want is to know whether you can blame the person who didn't disclose and gave you HSV, then go ahead and have sex without bringing up your concern about HSV ahead of time. And then, yes, you get to blame the other person.

If you actually want to reduce your risk of getting HSV, then bring it up before sex. And don't have sex with people who brush off the question or can't answer it with certainty.

It's true that's more emotional work and might reduce how much sex you have.

78

Editing my post @77 -- don't have sex with people who brush off the question or can't answer it with the degree of certainty you request.

79

@27, "It's my understanding that if you have oral herpes you can't also get genital herpes."

Wrong. Herpes can colonize different spots in the body separately. I had oral herpes before I got genital herpes. It's even possible to get herpes of the, let's say, hand, if you have a cut or something on your hand and the virus gets in.

82

@81 vocal fry...lol...I agree on that point.

83

Hey troll boy, nobody cares what your deal breaker list is. For civilised folk, disclosing sti’s Upfront is a must.

84

Totally off topic here: I just saw an article in another publication that mentioned Sebastion Gorka, he is like the herp, in a way. Anyhooo, it occurred to me that why did no one ever make a definition of what "Gorka" is? Cuz it definitely sounds like it is something.

85

@83 LavaGirl: Agreed and seconded. And so many trolls wonder why they can't get laid.

86

Isn't the whole point of avoiding sex with people you don't want to have sex with to reduce the amount of sex you have?

87

@86 slomopomo: I'm asexual, but my comment (@85) was regarding the usual trolling commenters who advertise a big deal breaker list, and then whine about the lack of sex in their lives.

88

Grizelda, he says it’s The Universal List! Poor guy, has to get more and more outrageous to get attention. Yawn.

89

Mr Ddy - (after inserting the appropriate qualifier into the heading) Is #10 a typo? It seems obviously so, but I can just visualize how someone might genuinely hold that opinion/

90

@venn @89: I don't think it's a typo. I think it's a coy acknowledgment that some folks can get awfully highfalutin' about their virtues, especially when it comes to what they do/don't put in their body.

@Dadddy @81: 100% agree on #4 & 9.
If I might make some suggestions?
I'd change 3) to "You hate going down"
and add
11) You pronounce "et cetera" as if it has an x in it.

93

Hey HARM! Been with the same herpetic guy for a decade and I still don’t have it. If he knows his prodrome and he’s a good guy you’ll be fine.

94

Daddy@81~ I was glad to see you have a universal deal-breaker list like that one. Society in general benefits from less people having sex with you.

95

"Around fifty percent of people have herpes anyway" (paraphrase) is a shit way to justify not disclosing- I don't think the other fifty-ish percent of people are looking to contract herpes. Disclose. Always.

96

@88 LavaGirl: Yes, and most likely Dadddy and those like him are crawling out of the sewers now, thanks to the Err of Trump.
By the way, Lava, are you ready to score this week's Lucky Hunsky Award (@100)? It's coming up fast.
@94 DonnyKlicious: Many thanks, a big hug, and an "Aack=oop!" for you and Mr. Bill. Spot on and seconded.

97

I’m still recovering from the last Hunsky who came my way, Grizelda. Yes re The Troll, since trump and his gross ways, men like him are slithering out from under their rocks.

99

Those who brag the most do it the least, haven’t you heard that one troll boy?
You not read the comments? Herpes can inflict real harm on some people. This is about bodily health, not moral crusades. I guess from your reaction you don’t bother to disclose. That would fit with your sleaseball profile.

103

Ms Ods/Mr Ddy - That's why I thought it WAS a typo. Had it read, "YOU SAY you don't need drugs to have a good time," it would have made more sense. As written, it claims it's reasonable to dump someone who can have a good time while sober.

109

@Dadddy @98: Nope, not too subtle. Received and enjoyed.

110

Please ciods give him your email so the rest of us don’t have to put up with his bs.

111

LavaGirl, WTF happened in the elections? Please say it ain't so......

112

LavaGirl, What in the world happened in the elections? Please say it ain't so........

113

Yes gonzo @112. It is. Unbloody believeable. Sad sad day for Australia, voting these crooks and galahs back in.

114

This will motivate the young, one hopes, they don’t want to lose the earth. Betta get my marching boots laced up. Because it’s on, fuckers.

115

@100: Congrats on the Hunsky. Dadddy. And re @101: I couldn't care less about your sex life. Your constant advertising puts me to sleep.
@99 LavaGirl: Damn!--I was hoping you'd nail it again, Lava. :)

116

@114 LavaGirl: Agreed and seconded.

117

I remember the guy from whom I contracted herpes. I had noticed an odd scarring on his lower abdomen and asked about it but he was evasive and I was horny. It wasn't long before I began having painful problems in my colorectal region. Long story short, herpes, and a very painful initial episode that took over a month for my internals to heal. After that, relapses have been confined to the base of my spine and buttocks area.The thing is, an outbreak can come on suddenly; one day a bit of tingling and a mild itch that's barely noticable, but within about 24 hours I have the leisions. I say this to emphasize that at times a person can be in an outbreak and capable of passing the virus on before they realize it. Always play safe no matter what.