Joke: If you google random symptoms, all roads will lead to cancer. If you have sex, all roads will lead to herpes; it’s almost inevitable.
5-Lastly, PEOPLE LOVE SEX! And the general public’s unwillingness to change their sexual habits is the leading reason people continue to get STD/Is.
Take HIV for example; HIV, unlike herpes (HSV), is a fluid transmissible virus (passed via blood, semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk, and in rare specific* cases saliva). The virus has to enter the person’s blood stream in order to replicate. The most common and effective way to minimize their chances of getting HIV, are to simply use condoms/barriers and test your partners before having sex (before Prep and Pep, etc). Seems simple enough right… WRONG!!!!
The truth of the matter is; many people don’t use condoms. For whatever reasons people give: they’re too tight, they feel uncomfortable, allergic, or they lose sensations, etc. It all balls (pun intended) down to people don’t want to use them. I’ve had plenty of partners throughout the years (before and after herpes) that will get annoyed with me when I stop and tell them to get a condom. When it comes to the topic of getting tested; I remember asking men and they’re response was “Why? You think I got something?” or “Don’t worry, I’m clean”; without even being able to tell me when was the last time they actually went to the doctor. So, when you consider the reality that the use of condoms can minimize the spread of HIV; and people still don’t want to use them; that’s proof that people would much rather live in the moment and worry about the possible consequences later. And, for what it’s worth- there is nothing wrong with that. If you want to live a sexually empowered life, then do it. But, in this era of sex positivity, the conversation of sexual health is often not had.
The above (5) examples play a major role in the spread of herpes. I find it highly imbalanced to only focus on people not disclosing as the main reason this virus spreads.
Truth Serum: I can tell a man that I have herpes and educate him on all the possible ways of contraction; and that man may decline to be with me (which is totally fine). That same man, will still go out the following night and sleep with the next woman (who may not know she’s positive), and still end up with herpes.
This little story, is just another one of the many reasons why I can’t get behind the attack of a single individual for not disclosing. Everyone that had consensual sex (myself included) could’ve taken extra steps; but we(I) didn’t. Even if I had taken the extra steps (as I lined out in Part 1), I still may have contracted herpes. But in my case, I looked at my partner, allowed my trust in him and my feelings for him to be all the proof that I needed. The use of my feelings, that allowed me to assume his words and actions, as proof of his sexual health, was in-fact a choice, MY CHOICE. This acceptance of choice is what allowed me to get rid of the anger and find peace with my diagnosis; and that allowed me to heal.
Many of the toxic people I describe, and often debate with, hold onto that anger; and when someone even hints at not disclosing they go into attack mode; because (I believe) they’re still very angry. Some people choose to sit in the anger and dish it out rather than do the self-reflection and acknowledge the choices they made that landed them where they are. In the end it’s not about blame, it’s about choice. A choice that we had and made; a choice that, had we not contracted herpes as a result of it, we’d be proud to have made. Just because the end result was one that was not desired, that does not make the entire act any less of a choice. When we agreed to have sex, we all signed an invisible contract, without acknowledging the fine print.
So, getting on an invisible pedestal to degrade another person, just because their choices don’t align with yours, does not make you any better. At the end of the day; it takes two to tango, and each individual should be responsible for their own sexual health. We all should want to know our partner’s status; not just think and or assume it; but many people don’t ask. We all should get tested regularly, and be able to happily exchange results with our partners before we have sex; but many people don’t.
The reality is, many people would rather not spoil the mood or miss the opportunity. Most people won’t even talk about sexual health before they have sex. And, many people would be very happy not knowing the truth. People want to continue living and loving as if nothing has changed; hoping for the best.
It’s ok to encourage people to disclose by sharing your experiences. But to attack them, only puts people on defense and often times, they’ve already checked out of the conversation. Navigating this virus isn’t easy; we don’t have to make it any more difficult than it already is.
It’s time to change the conversation on herpes and start being proactive about our sexual health.