Tag Archives: std

WHAT IF…

A few years ago, I found my first herpes support group on Facebook, and on the façade, it seemed very supportive. Messages of “Keep your head up!” Be strong, you’ll find someone!” and “It wasn’t meant to be.” seemed to flood the daily feed. Even though I knew I wasn’t the only person living with herpes, it was great to finally see and hear other people’s stories. The overall morale of the chats was positive and uplifting, which for a newly diagnosed individual can be essential. However, every so often, I would come across a post asking for advice and support.   

I feel terrible, and I need your advice. Last week, I was drinking, partying, smoking (whatever) with my friend. Things got out of control, we had sex, and I forgot to tell them about my herpes status. I feel terrible, and I want to tell them, I just don’t know how to.  

It didn’t take long for me to realize that once the comments have been disabled, it was safe to assume that the poster was virtually attacked. Similar posts often bring out, what I like to call, The Bully-Brigade. The Bully-Brigade is the barrage of people that come together to virtually bully anyone whose actions and views don’t align with theirs. With comments like, “You’re a terrible person.” “How could you forget…” and “People like you should be locked up!” — The Bully-Brigade has struck again.  

The comments and attacks vary, but the one that sticks out the most is the one of blame. It’s the person that says, “You know, many of us wouldn’t be here if our partner had told us. If my partner had told me that they had herpes, I never have had sex with them. You should’ve given them a choice.”   

This one always bugs me, because they so conveniently forget that they, in fact, did have a choice. To have consensual sex, without knowing your partner’s sexual health status, was a choice. The power to control the sanctity of my body is my responsibility, and the same for your body. Do you not eat when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty, or sleep when you’re tired? So, why when it comes to sex, is it only the other person’s responsibility to protect you? I don’t say this to point blame, I say this to take accountability.  

Think of your body as a new car you just bought. You wouldn’t give the keys for your new car to a person whose driving record you didn’t know and whose license you haven’t seen, would you? No! You wouldn’t! But if you did, and they crashed it, was it not your choice to hand your keys over to them, in the first place? We don’t take that risk with material things, but we assume that risk with our bodies every day. From the moment I laid eyes on my partner, once I know I want to have sex with him, the responsibility to ensure my sexual health is mine, and mine alone. It was my responsibility to make sure that he posed no threat to me, and the choice I made to not verify his status was, in fact, A CHOICE.   

Over the years, I learned to stop arguing with The Bully-Brigade; because they had already made up their mind that their positive diagnosis was someone else’s fault. What I try to do now is pose the question, what if…  

You say — “If they had told me they had herpes…” I pose the question — “What if you had asked…?”  

What if they told you they were clean, because the test they took didn’t include herpes? Therefore, they had no way of knowing they had the virus.   

What if they had the test that included herpes, but because they recently acquired the virus, the antibody test came back negative? (It took 9 months for my antibodies test to detect herpes).  

What if you had used condoms? (I used condoms when herpes was transmitted to me).  

What if they told you they had a history of cold sores? Marketing doesn’t make it clear that cold sores and herpes are the same virus. Many people don’t think that their cold sores are herpes or that they can impact their partner’s genital region. What if this information was made clear to the masses?  

What if doctors did a better job of educating patients before, during, and after their diagnosis? What if they pointed patients to support groups after their diagnosis, instead of giving them a prescription and sending them on their way?  

What if sex education was clear and transparent, and inclusive of all sexual behaviors, sexualities, and sexual health? What if consent and boundaries were mandated? What if the stigma was never able to exist because people were educated on the truth of all sexually transmissible and non-sexually transmissible viruses?  

What if testing were made easier for all to access? What if when I asked to be tested for everything, I was tested for EVERYTHING?  

What if we stopped shaming sex, sexuality, and people with STD/STIs?  

What if you’re herpes positive, you disclose to your partner, but you don’t ask to see their results in return? (Is that not, once again, handing someone the keys to your car without checking their license, all-over again?)  

What if asking about a person’s sexual health was as easy as saying hi? What if asking to see a person’s test results (and getting them), was as easy and pleasurable as having sex?  

What if they never assaulted me?  

What if the dad, the aunt, the uncle didn’t kiss the toddler, and pass them the herpes virus?  

What if the mother didn’t kiss her child and pass them the herpes virus?  

What if you had waited another 3-9 months to get re-tested before having sex?   

What if you had waited to go and get tested together?  

What if you had asked your partner their sexual health status?  

While the what-ifs are endless, none of them can guarantee that you still wouldn’t have ended up with herpes virus. With all the precautions that you could’ve taken in your adolescent or adult life, you still could’ve acquired the virus before ever taking your first steps. At the end of the day, we’re all here. So, instead of focusing on what if, focus on the future. A lot of why we feel what we feel is stigma. So, instead of trying to change others, maybe we can change our perception. And with that, we can change the stigma. 

Maybe this hoe life isn’t for me…

In January, 2019, I finally stopped beating around the bush and went public about, not only, my herpes status and polyamory; I also openly questioned my bisexuality. I spoke about the difficulty I had finding women that wanted to be intimate with me; and my struggle finding casual sex with women. I figured the only way to confirm if I was truly bisexual (enjoyed eating pussy) was to venture into a sex-club.  

What I didn’t expect was, while eating random woman’s pussy at the first sex-club; I also realized that I really-really loved being an exhibitionist; just as much as I enjoyed having, and watching people having sex. I would enter the room, shy on the outside, yet burning up on the inside. However, once I started engaging, all inhibitions left the room. With one random-hand squeezing my ass, another caressing my leg, random mouth licking my freshly pedicured toes, another sucking at my pierced nipple; add to that, the room filled with eyes on me; I was elevated to a level of sexual nirvana that I hadn’t experienced since I was a teenager.  

After that, each party I attended, was for the sheer joy of pure surprise-induced satisfaction.  

I used to dream of; entering a huge loft where every person would enter from a separate door, all wearing masks. There would be no talking, only action. After a few hours of pleasure, each person would walk back to the room they came from and no one would ever know the identity of the other person. Masks and anonymity, mixed with the cocktail of sexual aura was a recipe for great orgasms this fantasy.  

However, in real life; sex-parties, sex-clubs, and (in my case) just sex in general; turned out to be the recipe for repeated trips to the GYN.  

After I lost my virginity, I made the GYN my best friend. Because I was highly sexually active, (and not always the most careful); during my teenage and adolescent years, I got pretty comfortable waiting, and having my vagina examined. Quite a few times, I knew what my ailment was going in, and would leave with a prescription that would have be back in tip-top shape after a week. None the less, getting examined, swabbed, and blood drawn was a very natural thing for me. I was very sexually active, so I tested often in between partners.  

One day, in 2008, after a night of less than eventful sex, (so much so that I had to call someone else over to fuck the memory of the previous guy out of my mind); my vagina felt less than perfect. Naturally, I went to the GYN and she told me it was BV (Bacterial Vaginosis); something I had never heard of and she described as an STD. I was, not only, pissed and uncomfortable; I was extremely confused. By this time, I was WA-CONDOM-FOREVER, so how could I have gotten and STD? All she could do was give me the prescription and send me on my way. I notified both my partners so they could get treated. After the antibiotics to treat the BV, I had to take a round of treatment for the yeast infection that the treatment for BV caused. After a little over two weeks, I was back to normal. It wasn’t until month’s later that I had a new GYN and she informed me that BV was not actually an STD, but an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina (similar to a yeast infection); and that made more sense. Armed with that knowledge, I continued to use condoms, stopped using scented soaps, and was confident I would live happily ever after…  

I fucking wish.  

Once I got my first BV diagnosis, the son-of-a-bitch kept coming back. Every few months I would get a weird sensation, that would cause me to go to the doctor and every time it would return BV.  

Change of soap = BV 

Stayed too long in sweaty workout clothes = BV 

Toilet water splash back from poop = BV 

Occasional long session of rough sex = BV 

It was a repeat-offending disaster. 

It wasn’t until years later that, there appeared to be sunshine just beyond the horizon.  

In 2019, after my 8-month sex-break, I was confident that my vagina had reset itself. During that time, I learned some new tools to alleviate friction and I kept condoms on stand-by, just in case. So, after my 8-month sex drought, I was eager to walk into the sex-club. Armed with lube, condoms, and vibrator in my bag; I dived in. And, a few days later, I was in the doctor’s office, again.  

All treated, a month later, I met my first polyamorous partner and we started having amazing sex. He loved playing with my ass and probably had a digit slip every once in a while, once again. Every time he did – I had to go back to the doctor’s office.  

Treated again, a few months later, I went to my first all-black swingers party, followed by a day of sex, with an already sore pussy. And once again, I went to the doctor. 

I was really beginning to think, maybe this hoe-life wasn’t for me…  

It made no sense to me that, after every time I had a night of amazing (sometimes rough) sex, I would have to report to the doctor, days later. I once attended a party where the girl was literally filled with a dick the entire night. At parties, I would see all the other women taking dick after dick and I just knew they would be fine in the morning. It wasn’t fair! Not to mention $60 every visit, plus the price for the medication started to add up.  

To my surprise however, it turned out that, last time all my results came back negative. It appeared that, my vagina was not used to so much pounding. It was a crazy night after all. 

After a few more run-ins, my GYN, after seeing me for, what seemed, the 2000th time, decided to run a different test. She decided to check the bacteria in my vagina, as by BV was extremely recurrent.  

My results came back positive for high levels of ureplasma.  

Now, ureplasma naturally occurs in the body (hence why it’s considered a bacterial infection, and NOT An STI); however, the bacteria can also be passed to you via sexual contact. A-fucking-HA! That finally explained why once I got BV, it kept happening. It was all due to the rise in ureplasma in my vagina.  

She ordered me a prescription, along with advising me to take daily probiotics; to further promote the growth of healthy bacteria.  

After years of repeat occurrences, I finally had an answer; and due to her detective work, I finally had a cure.  

With that, in the closing of 2019, I was finally back to having the sex and the experiences I always wanted. I was not ready to hang up my sex-party robe just yet; and I was elated that I didn’t have to. 

HOW DO I TELL THEM?

Now that you have this horrible thing plaguing you, how can you ever live a normal life again? That was a question I asked myself once I was, finally, ready to get back into the dating world. Part of the answer is, having herpes is only as horrible as you make it. Another thing to consider is… What is normal?

We all have traveled different roads and have different stories to tell; and since people living with this virus are often secretive about it; this road is rarely ever paved, for the next person’s journey. There is a lot of trial and error in dealing with this virus; and I’ve tried quite a few things and here were my results.  

First things first: I want to stress the importance of taking time to actually heal after being diagnosed. I’m talking about emotional, spiritual, and mental healing. The first thing we often struggle with, post positive, is – Who will want me? I’ll tell you now, the answer is “Somebody!” Maybe not the person you thought, but there are enough people in the world that will see you and see beyond the virus. But, I deeply stress self-healing because; there are just as many people that will see your desire for acceptance and use that to have control over you. And what was once a great romance; soon becomes an abusive, manipulative, unfaithful, and sad situation. You’ll find yourself staying in that bad situation because you fear that no one else will want to be with you.  

You have to want yourself more than you want them. No person (herpes or not) that comes into your life should complete you. You have to be complete with yourself; that way, anyone that you allow to occupy time in your life, only adds a bonus. Think of how good it felt to see that 110% on a test because you answered the bonus question- that’s the feeling you want. 

ALL ON FRONT STREET (Immediate & Early Disclosure): “I’d rather not waste my time, so I just tell them to get it out of the way.”  

I only encourage this approach in hook-up scenarios (online or in person). I’ve online dated for a very long time, and most often than not, conversations turn to sex. So, as a tactic to get to the point I state the following:  

“So, just so you’re aware, before we go any further (before I come over); 10 years (X time) ago, I was diagnosed with genital herpes. None of my partners have tested positive, and I’ll do what I can to keep you negative; but you need to be aware of the risks.”  

The above, script gets the fact out there, with details in relation to my diagnosis and the partners that I’ve had that have not been affected by the virus. I allow the person to think about it, I honestly answer any questions they have and I allow them to make a choice. 

If you have not had this virus and you don’t have a record to reflect on; I used to say this: 

Before we go any further (before I come over); I need to let you know that, I was diagnosed with genital herpes (however long ago). I’m not having any symptoms right now, so the risk is minimal; but you should be aware of the risks.” 

It should be stated, that you will have the most recurrent outbreaks and episodes of shedding, within the first year. Antivirals (valtrex or acyclovir) and an overall healthier way of living will minimize the frequency of these episodes. But just because you’re not showing symptoms, that does not mean the virus isn’t present. This year period is a good time to self-reflect. Take the year to learn your body and what your triggers are. Adapt a healthier and stress-free life and move forward.  

*** 

I don’t like the AOFS approach when it’s a person you want to pursue in a more romantic way. When you blurt out herpes; you’re not allowing them to get to know you. Every person’s experience with this virus is different, but the image of what herpes is (magnified by the STIGMA) is always bad. Telling a person too soon, may cause them to only see the virus and not you. I realize that; nothing hurts more than dating a person, really falling for them, then when you finally disclose, they run for the hills. This rejection can send you into a downward spiral and make you never want to try again. But consider this fact; that people will reject you for a plethora of reasons: your education, past, finances, sexual past, the list goes on. Sure, you probably envisioned that they would be “The One” and now your hopes and dreams are shattered. But I promise you, they were not “The One”, they were simply the one you wanted.  

IN DUE TIME (Tactical Disclosure): “I like to wait a few dates in or before we become intimate” 

I advocate for this option for many reasons.  

1. I’ve encountered many men that seem to be nice, that turn out to be ass-hats. Not to mention, you’ll be grateful that you didn’t tell them if the ending turns disrespectful. In cases where I was called a bitch, I was happy the words “dirty” or “diseased” weren’t placed in front of it. 

2. There’s no need in disclosing something about yourself if you never make it to date one. With the dating culture filled with ghosts; the last thing you need, is to think someone didn’t show up because of you having herpes. I run out of hair follicles if I try to count how many times I’ve been ghosted, without them ever knowing I have herpes.  

3. The phone (or text) conversations seemed to flow like water; but the in-person date was so dry, you swear they hired a ghost-writer. If you never make it to date two, was all the stress to disclose really worth it? 

4. What’s wrong with just enjoying a date for the sake of a date? Again, the pressure and realization of this virus forces us to act with haste to find a partner, settle down, and be done with it all. So, we get all jazzed up to put our best foot forward to be chosen. But the truth is; there is nothing wrong with dating. Go on a date, share a kiss or two; it’s totally fine. Take your time and think to yourself; Would I want to be with this person, if I didn’t have herpes?” If the answer is yes then; set up a time to get ready to have the conversation. But if the answer is no; just enjoy the date. 

*** 

So, once you’ve determined you like this person, what do you say? The answer is, there is no perfect answer. The truth is, some people will NEVER want to take that risk, and you’ll have to accept that. It doesn’t make them bad and it doesn’t make you dirty or whatever; it just makes them “UNWILLING TO TAKE THE RISK”. I strongly advise confiding in a family member or friend and practicing. It may also help telling people that you have no genuine desire to be with. I’ve found the best approach is confidence combined with a dose of education. The fact is; many people know nothing about herpes. They know: they know it’s called an STD, they don’t want to get it, it’s forever, and causes blisters. Arming your conversation with facts will only help when disclosing. Facts help to dismantle the stigma; and it also shows people they don’t know all they thought they did. Practice makes perfect! 

I’ve disclosed; over the phone, via text message, and I’ve displayed my status on dating apps; but I’ve found that I prefer disclosing in person. I like the in-person approach, because I like to see their face as I tell them. I often realize that their face displays one of shock or surprise, because I don’t look like a person that has herpes. (Because people with herpes, have “A LOOK”). I can see their brain reprogramming itself as I go on and on with details and stats.  

One of the last dates, when I disclosed in person; went something like this. (We met on OKCupid, after date #2, and after date one he was already talking about giving me a ‘body massage’. I suggested we walk to the park and talk for a bit) 

Me: So, before we go back to your place, there is something you should know. 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with genital herpes. I’ve had boyfriends and partners since then, all of whom have never tested positive. I always do what I can to keep my partners negative, but as there is always a risk, that I have to make my partners aware of. 

Him: Wow! I wasn’t expecting that. Sorry you’re dealing with that. You know I really care about my health; I get tested after every partner, so I don’t think this will work.  

Me: Don’t be sorry. Many people have it and many people are unaware they may be carriers of the virus, so I just do what I can to inform my partners 

Him: Wait what? Don’t you get like blisters and stuff? 

Me: Some people do, but majority of people that have the virus show no symptoms; and many tests don’t include it. So, a lot of people are walking around, assuming they are negative, and all the while- are carriers of the virus and can spread it.  

Him: I didn’t know that.  

Me: Many people don’t. I would suggest that you and your partner get tested and share results before, if you care that much; since after would be too late. I told you, because I know, but like I said; many people don’t know, some people don’t tell, and many doctors don’t enforce telling.  

With the above, I was honest, direct, and was specific about my experience with the virus. The date didn’t continue, but there weren’t any hard feelings (I wasn’t head over heels for him), but even if I had been; I would still consider it a good disclosure story. There was no anger, disrespect, he asked questions and I answered.  

The below is a great way to feel a person out, if you’re still afraid to put yourself out there. This will be easier if there is an easy segue to the conversation, but with practice you’ll get better. 

SCENARIO 1: 

Me: My friend’s boyfriend (girlfriend) just found out that they tested positive for herpes.  

Him/Her: I’ll that’s disgusting! Was he/she cheating on him/her? 

Me: Not that she knows of. But, you know a lot of people have herpes, and most don’t know it. 

Him/Her: No! Only dirty people get herpes. 

Me: Would you call a child that gets cold sores dirty? Cold sores are herpes too.  

Him/Her: No it’s not! 

Me: It’s actually the (almost) identical virus. There’s actually a rise on genital HSV1 from people contracting it from oral sex.  

Him/Her: But, I get cold sores too. What does that mean for me? 

Me: Welcome to the club. I have herpes too.  

SCENARIO 2: 

Me: So, when was the last time you went to the doctor? 

Him/Her: (Enter date) hopefully! Why? 

Me: Well, I just want to make sure we both get tested and know our status before we plan to have sex. I feel knowledge of sexual health status is very important.  

Him/Her: Well, I’m good! I don’t have anything. What about you? 

Me: How would you know? 

Him/Her: Because I always use condoms and I don’t mess with dirty people. 

Now, the following is pending on the conversations you two may have had; like how soon the topic of sex was brought up during your previous conversations 

Me: So, you’ve seen the test results of every person you had sex with (including oral)? And you know condoms don’t protect you from everything; right? 

Him/Her: No. But I know the people I sleep with, and they’re good, so I know I’m good! 

With this response (and strong mental arrogance) you now have enough knowledge to either enforce testing before you continue, or simply walk away. 

One mistake I made early on (and sometimes still do, on occasion); I would assume that I’m the worst option on the table. I have herpes; so, nothing can top that. I only cared that they knew my status, but I NEVER enforced confirming theirs; it was enough for me to know they wanted me. I simply assumed, like we all do/did that the other person was STD/I negative. We put all the responsibility on the positive person to have to disclose, but rarely do we ask or confirm. Assumption is not Confirmation.  

So, before you lay down or engage with a person (especially if you don’t want to use condoms or other barriers) know their status. No one virus or infection is better than another, but I’d prefer to not add any additional ones to my list.