HSV2 Dating

Anna will gladly explain why having herpes isn’t the end of the world. But she didn’t always feel that way. It took years for her, founder of The STD Project, which encourages awareness and acceptance of various sexually transmitted diseases, and spokesperson for Positive Singles, a dating site for people with STDs, to come to terms with the diagnosis she got at age 16.

“My mom says the entire way home from my appointment, I cried and said no one would ever love me, no one would ever want me, and I’d never get married,” she explains. Positive Singles

hsv2 dating
When she was diagnosed with herpes almost three years ago, Wanda, a social media editor in Chicago, had a similar reaction. “I mostly thought, ‘I’m going to die alone, no one’s going to date me ever again,” she tells SELF.
Although herpes is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases, it’s shrouded in stigma. The infection, which is caused by the herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2 viruses and passed via skin-to-skin contact, can show up as a cluster of sores on the mouth area or genitals. It can also be asymptomatic, so most people with herpes don’t know they have it, which is a large part of the reason why it’s so prevalent. Around two-thirds of people worldwide under age 50 have herpes simplex 1, according to the World Health Organization, and around one in every six Americans between ages 14 and 49 has genital herpes, usually caused by herpes simplex 2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both eventually moved past their initial panic and saw herpes for what it is: an infection many people have that happens to usually get passed through sexual contact. But all the self-acceptance in the world doesn’t erase the fact that a herpes diagnosis creates ripple effects of shame and social isolation, and the fallout is especially pronounced when it comes to your dating life.
Dating with herpes means telling potential partners, which can be scary. But it’s necessary.

HSV2 Dating

“It’s good to have the conversation because there is a potential risk of transmission,” Cherrell Triplett, M.D., an ob/gyn who practices at Southside OBGYN and Franciscan Alliance in Indianapolis, Indiana, tells SELF. Although telling someone you’re interested in can be intimidating, there are different ways to do it, and you might find one easier than the others.
In the past, Carlson would put the herpes conversation on the table quickly. “I don’t like wasting my time or getting my heart broken, so I think it’s a self-defense thing to almost always tell the guy on the first date,” she explains. “If they want to cut and run, I haven’t invested too much of myself in it.”

But in the future, she thinks she’ll take her time disclosing as long as she gets it done before engaging in sexual activities that would put the other person at risk. “On a first date with this wonderful guy, I told him, and he couldn’t handle it,” she says. “I really wonder if it would have changed things to wait until we had connected more.”
On the flip side, she’s also dated “quite a few guys who didn’t care at all” even though she told them ASAP.
Davis usually holds off on disclosing to potential sexual partners that she has herpes until she’s known them for a bit. “I’ve always waited a little while before telling people, basically until I thought it was going somewhere,” Davis says. “This isn’t everyone’s experience, but when I started dating with herpes, I found out none of my partners cared.”
Although she sees that it’s intriguing to potentially avoid attachment—and thus heartbreak—by telling someone right out the gate, she makes an excellent point in favor of taking your time: “Nobody tells you all of the things about themselves that you usually don’t find out for a bit, like they have really bad credit or they’re a horrible cook, until you get to know each other.” Of course, it’s different with a health condition you can pass to someone else, but it’s worth noting.
How to tell your partner is up to you, but people with the virus say it helps to be direct, transparent, and patient.
Although they tell potential partners at different points in the relationship, Carlson and Davis’ actual disclosure process is pretty similar. They both say it can be nerve-racking, but a few things help: sitting the person down in a place that’s comfortable for them, trying not to be too emotional, starting off with something like, “Hey, there’s something I need to talk to you about,” and bringing a wealth of knowledge to the conversation.
“I always try to be calm and not too clinical but explain that I have done the research,” Carlson says. Davis agrees, saying she fills people in on key details, like how herpes is transmitted, how transmission can be prevented, whether she’s taking medication that keeps the virus from multiplying, thus making it less likely to transmit, and how to find more information about the STD.
To top it all off, she also tells them they don’t have to make a decision about whether to continue seeing her—or even respond—right away. “If they have any questions, we can chat. But I usually peace out so they have their space to chew on it,” she says.
STD-centered dating sites give people with herpes and other infections a way to skip awkward disclosures altogether.
Davis says the number one question they get on The STD Project is about how to tell a new partner. On sites like Positive Singles and HMates, users are expected to be open about their diagnoses, but because they know everyone else there has an STD, too, it removes a huge barrier—and the question of whether the information will send a potential partner packing.
“It’s a great way to see you’re still the same interesting, sexy, desirable person,” Davis says. “It helps rebuild the confidence that gets hammered down when you get that diagnosis.” (She is a spokesperson for Positive Singles, but she’s never used any STD-specific dating site.)

Carlson, who got back into dating via this kind of site after her diagnosis, agrees. “After I felt more comfortable with myself and the situation, I went on Bumble and started dating people in the more conventional way,” she says.
Some people put an incognito message in their profiles on general dating sites, writing out 437737—it spells “herpes” on a dial pad—in their profiles. Others just write, “I have herpes” in their profiles, and Davis says her friends in this camp still have plenty of people knocking on their online-dating doors.
So, if you have herpes, don’t worry that your love life is over. It’s not.
You can have great sex, find love, and also cut down on the chance of passing herpes along to your partner, Triplett says. Just keep these few things in mind:
It’s possible to transmit herpes even if you don’t currently have cold sores or a genital outbreak. “The virus exhibits something called asymptomatic shedding,” Triplett says. “Because of that, we strongly recommend you always use condoms to protect yourself.” You can also use dental dams, little latex sheets you place over the vaginal area during oral sex. Positive Singles

Suppressive therapy medications, like Valtrex, can lessen your chances of getting an outbreak or transmitting the virus. They won’t make it impossible, but combined with barrier methods, it’s much less likely, Triplett says.
The right person won’t view it as a deal-breaker. “Once you do tell them, if they want to be with you and accept you completely, you can work through it,” Triplett says.

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