I’ve been meaning to write about this. Last night my friend RD broached the subject with me. He’s had a crush on me for a while (mostly reciprocal) but we haven’t really hung out much in the past. Once during a heart-to-heart over the phone, I told him about the HSV. He didn’t say anything about it then and it wasn’t spoken about until last night. He conducted himself perfectly, it was cute.
So! What to do when someone tells you they have herpes?
Tips on how to react, what to say, and general tips when non-positive (in a romantic sense, I’m planning to do another one of these focusing more on platonic relationships):
- Be open. Understand that this is sort of a big deal to many people dealing with this, and that at the end of the day, they’re going to be the ones dealing with this for a very long time.
- Take your time: Sometimes it takes us a while to process the information. It’s understandable and it’s better to take your time, let it sink in, and go from there than to make irrational decisions. If you do decide to take your time, longer than the current conversation, let the person know.
- Get informed: Do your own research! Look up blogs (like this one), managed by people with HSV. Ask the person about their own experience. Hear their story. Emerge yourself on what this virus means, how it affects people and your person specifically, and how it will affect you if you decide to stay. Correlated: Ask for more information. Requests packets, handouts, etc.
- Know that there are many ways to prevent transmission. If you decide to stay, know that it doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to end up HSV+ too. Condoms, antiviral medication (if they decide to take it or are told to my a doctor) and not engaging in contact with active areas are a main way to reduce transmission rates. There are many couples who have led healthy, fulfilling, sexual lives, with children included, without HSV transmission.
- Babies!: Women and FAABs in general with HSV2 can still have babies! The virus shouldn’t really affect many technicalities, so don’t focus so much on that.
- Talk about both of your responsibilities. Don’t put this all on them. It’s a heavy weight to bear as is. Keep condoms around, don’t blame them or judge them, and don’t be afraid to ask if they are “active” or are having love bumps. It’s better to know where they stand in terms of sexual availability (always with consent, of course!) than to guess and then worry.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Questions! I love questions! The more questions you ask, the more interested you seem and the more convinced I am that you care.Don’t become overbearing though and understand if they aren’t comfortable answering something in specific.
- Be kind. Try to understand where the person is coming from, and commend their courage. It takes a lot for someone to risk hurtful rejection based on something they can’t control, especially when said rejection comes from someone they really like or want to be with.
- Don’t make insensitive remarks, don’t use the word “clean”, and be tasteful when choosing your word choice. Ask them if there are any words or terms that they don’t want to hear. Sometimes this is important, depending on the person.
- Feel the situation out: Roll with their cues, both verbal and non-verbal. If they are laughing and have a light mood, go with that. If they are freaking out, go with that. Let them control the conversation, to a point. Different people have different methods of going about this. Be conscious of that.
- If the person is having an obviously hard time (they are crying, panicking, etc), comfort them, unless they don’t want you to. Be respectful. Let them know that no matter what, they are special, and important, and that you don’t think any less of them. If they are really freaking out, let them calm down on their own.
- Depending on the tone of the conversation, lighten up the mood. Be funny. Be charismatic. Flirt with the person, but don’t lead them on if you really don’t want to move this further. No one has died, you’re not being told you have cancer. No need to be morose. Make them feel like it’s not that big of a deal, especially if they are freaking out. Don’t make blow job or other oral sex jokes unless you know the person will find them funny and not find them offensive.
- DO NOT tell someone to “calm down, bro”. You don’t know what they are going through, you do not know what it feels like to have a heavily stigmatized STA and you do not get to minimize their pain, frustration and worry just because you don’t want to deal with it. One of the most hurtful things I can think of is someone telling me to “chill out” while I’m pouring out my heart, telling my story, crying while they leave and never contact me again.
- If you decide that you don’t want to deal with it: Realize that this doesn’t make you a bad person. Sometimes we just aren’t ready to deal with things we aren’t used to or don’t know how to deal with. That’s okay, as long as this decision comes from a sincere, kind place and not from ignorance and malice.
- If you do decide to move on, TELL THEM. Yes, it’s going to make you both feel like shit and it’s going to be horribly uncomfortable but it’s better to TELL THEM and be honest with them, than to just cut off all contact and leave them hanging with their heart in their hands. That’s not nice and that’s not fair to them, especially when they took such a huge, scary step in telling you. There are ways to let someone go without being mean or making the situation worse. Don’t be an asshole.
- Just like you have the right not to want to deal with it, they have a right to be with someone that doesn’t mind and they have a right to be treated with respect and kindness.
- Don’t go around blabbing your mouth about this. No one needs to know this. Be mature. Again, this is sort of a big deal. Don’t start telling people, putting the person in an uncomfortable position because they were trying to be honest with you.
- High school kids: Shut your mouth. Seriously. High schools are breeding grounds for rumors, stigma, bullying and mean words. If you tell someone less than trust worthy, other classmates will most likely end up knowing too. Just imagining myself as a 16 year old, walking to my class while someone yells out “RUN AWAY, THIS BITCH HAS HERPES” just makes me want to crawl into a ball forever. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t mature teenagers. There are, and they are wonderful, but please don’t make this harder on a high school kid than it has to be. High school is shitty as is, don’t make it worse.
I think that’s it! If anyone has any comments, additions, questions, etc, please let me know.
1. Condoms fail all the time!
Actually, when used correctly, condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy (for couples in which one partner can impregnate and the other can become pregnant). They also help prevent the spread of HIV and STDs.
2. They don’t feel good / I just don’t like them.
If you didn’t like the brand of soap you used, would you automatically stop using soap? If your refrigerator wasn’t cold enough, would you just stop refrigerating your food? No way! The same goes for condoms, if you didn’t like one brand, experiment with different brands! Condoms come in all sorts of sizes, materials, colors, textures, and flavors. If you experienced discomfort with a certain type of condom, you may need a larger or smaller size. Polyurethane condoms are available for those with latex allergies, as well as female/internal condoms which are made of nitrile. While sensation during sex may reduce slightly, the use of lubricants, the thinness of these materials, and their varieties of features can maximize pleasure. Safer is sexier, folks.
3. I am / My partner is on a hormonal birth control, we don’t need condoms.
Using hormonal birth control inconsistently or with certain other medications that interfere with the birth control can reduce its effectiveness. Birth control also does not prevent the contraction of HIV/STDs.
4. I trust that my partner doesn’t have STD’s.
Unfortunately, people can lie about their status or about whether they have been having sex outside of the relationship and inadvertently put their partner at risk of contracting HIV/STDs. Most people who have an STD are not even aware of it because they display no symptoms. If your partner claims that they have never had sex, ask them what they constitute as sex. One might not consider oral sex or some form of genital contact to be “real sex,” but both can increase the risk of contracting an STD. Want to be sure of your and your partner’s status? Get tested together! It can be a great bonding experience and help build trust in your sex lives. Testing and treatment (as well as condoms!) are free or offered at low cost at Planned Parenthood.
5. But it’s just oral sex!
STDs are passed through the exchange of genital fluids as well as skin-to-skin contact, therefore condoms and dental dams should still be used during oral sex. Also, STDs such as herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea can be located in the throat or genitals and be passed through oral sex.
6. We “pull-out.”
The pull-out method can be ineffective due to pre-ejaculation. Prior to ejaculation, some seminal fluids are released and can contain sperm. Even if semen is ejaculated onto the vulva, the sperm can still travel into the vagina. Some may find it difficult to time themselves just right in order to pull out and keep their penis away from the vulva before ejaculation. Pulling-out does not reduce ones risk of contracting HIV/STDs.
7. Putting on a condom ruins the mood/spontaneity.
Nothing really ruins the mood like an STD or unwanted pregnancy. With practice, condoms can take just seconds to put on correctly. Having your partner help you put the condom on can be pretty hot, too. Female/internal condoms can be inserted up to a few hours prior to sex to preserve the spontaneity.
What are some excuses you’ve heard?
There are the obvious benefits, of course – knowing your own status and your potential partner’s status is going to prevent contracting and/or spreading STD’s… but sometimes that’s not our first thought when we’re “in the mood.” When you start feeling somebody (either attracted to them, or starting to catch feelings) you’re not thinking about whether or not they’re going to give you a disease! If that’s what we were thinking, it would kill the mood almost immediately.
For this reason, I think the information about contraction rates, symptoms, safe sex practices, and all that stuff doesn’t motivate people to be safe the way it should. You don’t look at a good looking person and automatically think about protecting yourself from them. Some website or TV commercial warning you about how easy it is to spread HIV doesn’t always stick with you the way it should.
But what ARE we thinking? Possibly about emotional attachment, whether or not the person feels the same way, a possible relationship with this person, etc… Realizing how much getting tested for STD’s and HIV can affect THESE things could actually motivate people to be more careful about it. At least I would think so.
There are other benefits to getting tested, beyond just health reasons. Getting tested could be related to your emotional attachment to a person; it can also show you whether or not that person feels the same way about you, and it could have a huge impact on a relationship you are already in:
I kind of really dislike the ads that talk about something along the lines of “whenever you sleep with someone you sleep with all the people they’ve slept with” because it can come off as sex shaming. Instead, can we just stress using protection and getting tested? Because it really doesn’t matter how many people you’ve slept with, but rather how safe you were doing it.
Here are a few of my favorite links pertaining to living with HSV2 that I recommend:
- http://theherpesblog.com/ -
Nanci Elliot has been living with herpes for over 20 years. She has a husband, two children she birthed naturally, and a seemingly great life. Her positive outlook and constant reassurance that everything will be wonderful is really helpful, hopeful and motivating. She has gone through everything already and gives really great advice.
- http://www.herpesonline.org/articles/living_with_herpes.html -
The guide to living with HSV. Find out more about forums, support groups, testing, FAQs, articles, real stories from regular people, the works. Anything you need is here, seriously.
- http://www.herpes.org/herpesinfo/smartliving.shtml -
Written by a medical director, this site gives a nice, concise breakdown of the virus, symptoms and treatments. It’s very easy to navigate and is really helpful if you need to find something quick without having to look under rocks.
- http://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/ -
The CDC’s genital herpes page, which includes all of the medical information one would need.
This is my favorite HSV+ forum/independent community on the internet. It has great advice, information (including remedies, information on vitamins and supplements, etc). It also has a free chat room with really cool people who are going through the same thing.
The only STD dating site I have any experience with. It’s free to join and to make a profile but you can’t send messages or chat online. You can respond to messages but you can’t really do much besides that unless you pay the monthly fee.
Pro-tip: The fee is recurring so make sure to cancel before the monthly recurring date if you don’t want to keep getting billed!
Laura is one my favorite people in our little STD+ community here on Tumblr. She’s compassionate, kind and incredibly knowledgeable about sexual education/STDs. Her blog has a plethora of really interesting stuff and it’s definitely worth a look. She has been living with HSV2 for quite a while and always gives great advice and words of comfort. Whenever I mention her, I feel like I’m gushing but let my internet girl-crush be, okay?!
If you would like to be on my list of Tumblrs who speak solely or mostly about STDs/sexual health/etc, please let me know. I don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy.
Other links compiled by MeandTheHerpes.
- http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca (Health Canada)
Sort of like the Canadian version of the CDC.
Iwannaknow is designed to help you learn about your sexual health in order to make good decisions, since you will be a sexual being for a long time. Whether your 18 or 80, you going to have a desire to fulfill your sexual needs. Taking precautions now will not only help you live long, you will have a healthier sex life to show for it.
The site for the American Social Health Association.
For almost 100 years ASHA has been talking to you about sexually transmitted diseases/infections (STD/STIs). We’ve helped millions learn how to protect themselves, talk to their partners and parents, know what to do if they have an STD/STI, and much more.
STDresource.com is British Columbia’s information resource for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These diseases are also sometimes called sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or venereal disease (VD).
Suicide is never the best option. Even if things are shitty right now, they will get better. No matter how dark the night is, the sun always shows up in the morning. If you’re thinking about ending things, please contact someone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 if in the US and surround yourself by people who love you and care about you. This page is really great to read if you’re considering hurting yourself. From the site:
If you are feeling suicidal now, please stop long enough to read this. It will only take about five minutes. I do not want to talk you out of your bad feelings. I am not a therapist or other mental health professional - only someone who knows what it is like to be in pain.
I’ve been living with HSV2 for more than a year now and my life is pretty damn awesome. This will only affect you negatively if you let it. I’m always around so if you ever need me, don’t be afraid to drop me a line. :)
Trichomonas vaginalis, or Trichomoniasis, is a single celled protozoan and a sexually transmitted bacteria. It is the most common curable STD of young women. About 7.4 million new casses occur every year in men and women. It is often spread from penis to vulva or vulva to vulva.
The signs and symptoms in men are:
- irritation in penis
- mild discharge
- slight burning after urination
- slight burning after ejaculation
The signs and symptoms usually develop 5-29 days after exposture. These are:
- frothy, yellow-green discharge
- strong odor
- irritation and or itching in area
- discomfort during intercourse or urination
Trichomoniasis is often detected by small sores or swab test in women and swab test by men. It is often hard to detect in men. It is simple to treat with a single dose of metronidazole or tinidazole, taken by mouth. Wow, how simple is that. If you are diagnosed with Trichmoniasis, or “trich”, then you should refrain from sexual activity for a few weeks. Also, tell your recent partner(s), have them tested and treated at the same time you are getting treated.
Once you are cured of Trick, you can get it again. Prevention includes condoms, getting tested, and abstinence. One of the issues with trich is that most people do not know about it. Another is that it can be asymptomatic, which leads to spread of the disease. Get tested!
Have safe responsible sex! Have fun.
Resources: CDC and Microbewiki
After addressing some important facts about chlamydia, we want to make sure you know how to recognize some possible symptoms! Chlamydia is known as a “silent” disease because the majority of infected people have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear within 1 to 3 weeks after exposure.
- In women, the bacteria initially infect the cervix and the urethra. Women who do have symptoms might have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating.
- If the infection spreads from the cervix to the fallopian tubes (tubes that carry fertilized eggs from the ovaries to the uterus), some women still have no signs or symptoms; others have lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods.
- Chlamydial infection of the cervix can spread to the rectum.
- Men with signs or symptoms might have a discharge from their penis or a burning sensation when urinating. They may also have burning and itching around the opening of the penis. Kepe in mind that pain and swelling in the testicles are uncommon in chlamydia.
- Men or women who have receptive anal intercourse may acquire chlamydial infection in the rectum. This can cause rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding.
- Something that is less fequently addressed is that chlamydia can also be found in the throats of women and men having oral sex with an infected partner.