I’m a very well educated professional woman, with a successful career and 2 great kids. I’ve been seeing a man who I thought was a great guy. We’ve known each other for about 2 years and our relationship recently became sexual. 5 days later, I was sick in a way I’d never been before - with a high fever, painful urination, and then a rash that covered most of my genital area. My doctor said it could been a few different things, but the test for herpes came back positive for HSV-2.
I asked my partner if he had ever had symptoms. He said no. I suggested he visit his doctor to be tested. He hasn’t spoken to me since. When I asked about the test results, he texted me that his results came back negative, but his doctor put him on antibiotics (which doesn’t make any sense to me). I’m not sure if he’s telling the truth. I remain unsure how I contracted the disease. I’m devastated and have been mourning the loss of my sexuality. I can’t visualize myself trusting anyone enough to tell them I have herpes. Am I leading someone on if I accept a date without telling them about my condition?
The emotional response when one is first diagnosed with genital HSV can be difficult, but in most cases the impact is fairly short-lived. A key to this is getting good information and seeking the support you need, so we’re glad you found ASHA.
A diagnosis of genital herpes is in no way the end of sex and romance, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! There are options couples can take –including condom use and medication- that can reduce the risk of transmission to a partner who doesn’t have the virus. Keep in mind that genital HSV-2 is very common (about 1 in 5 Americans are estimated to have the virus) but 80% or more of these infections are undiagnosed and not recognized, so a new partner may have genital herpes and not even know.
You have no obligation at all to inform someone of your diagnosis before the first date, but it’s a good idea to talk about herpes within the context of sexual health before becoming sexually active with someone. For tips on how to talk about sexual health (including herpes) with a new partner, visit the HRC online here. Keep in mind that you haven’t done anything wrong, so don’t feel that a discussion should be about shame.