Talking about herpes is embarrassing. The problem is that statistics indicate that around 80% of all adults have one form of herpes or another. In older adults – it is estimated that around 96% have been exposed to the herpes that causes cold sores or fever blisters to erupt on the mouth, lips, and face. And around 25% of all Americans have genital herpes, which is a contagious form of the disease that affects the sexual organs. Of this 25%, experts believe that only 80% are effectively managing their infection, and that there are likely millions of people carrying the virus that do not know they have it.
What is herpes? Herpes is a viral infection, which once you get – never leaves your body. For this reason, it will resurface from time to time, especially during times of stress or when the immune system is compromised. Fever blisters, Shingles, Epstein Bar Virus, Mono and chicken pox are all forms of Herpes. However, most commonly humans are infected with Type I or II herpes also referred to as HSV. HSV I and II are transmitted from one person to the next through physical contact, and can occur on various parts of the body. The most common forms of herpes appear on the mouth in the form of cold sores, or in the genital area. While symptoms may be different, the virus is virtually the same.
With 80% of the population having herpes, it is fair to assume that there are plenty of people in this world wondering how to tell someone that they have herpes. Obviously, if your partner has a large, blistery cold sore on their lip, you aren’t going to be prone to kiss them. But what happens when the herpes is genital in nature. You have the potential to pass on a virus through sexual contact that the other person will never be able to rid themselves of. Not to mention the fact that for people suffering with genital herpes, life can be filled with shame, embarrassment and extreme discomfort. Likely, they got genital herpes from a partner that didn’t disclose the information to them. And this is exactly how serious STD’s are spread from one person to another.
Before you decide how to tell someone that you have herpes, you should understand a few things. You are not alone! While you may feel embarrassed and a bit ashamed, there is nothing that you can do about it now. But you do have a responsibility to other people. It is also important to realize that if you do have herpes, it doesn’t mean that you are destined to a life of no sex. In fact, after the initial phases of the virus – most people can manage the disease, predict break-outs, and use medications that help to lessen the severity and duration of breakouts. And when you are not suffering from a break out, you do not have to worry about passing it on to a partner. Still, telling someone can be difficult!
The key to telling someone about herpes is to do it BEFORE you have sexual contact. Consider this. If you don’t feel comfortable enough talking to a partner about herpes, chances are you don’t know each other well enough to have sex in the first place. You are likely worried that your partner may not want to be with you any longer? And yes, this does happen. Some people may hear the word herpes and run for the hills. They may be uneducated about the disease, not completely understand it, and be full of negative feelings about it. If this is the case, there is nothing you can do. Plus, even had the relationship moved forward and become more serious – by not telling you are simply prolonging the inevitable knowing. It may be a risk, but it is one you have to take.
The next thing you should do is set aside some private time to talk. Don’t have this discussion in a restaurant or other public venue. And arm yourself with plenty of information that you can show your partner so they can become familiar with the disease. Chances are they have already been exposed to it, or may be one of those people who has it and doesn’t know. Give them the reading material, and allow them to take it all in. You can find some good packets of information for your partner at www.datingwithherpes.org. Try to answer their questions and explain to them what you are doing to prevent spreading the disease and to manage it. Most often, people misunderstand herpes.
Once you have told them, you may notice that draw away a bit. Some people may not care at all because they love you so much and others may divulge the same information to you, that they also have herpes. Regardless, you know that you did the responsible thing by telling someone that you have herpes before you have sexual contact with him or her.
Once the ‘cat is out of the bag,’ you can continue with the relationship. Most couples find that they are able to enjoy a fulfilling sex life regardless of herpes. There are no guarantees to periods of contagiousness and exposure that may lead to infecting someone else in your life But as long as you are honest and conscientious about managing your herpes, it really isn’t that big of a deal.
Additionally, considering how many people have herpes, it should make you more conscientious about having safe sex with people in your life. The disease can be transmitted from the mouth to the genitalia and otherwise. This means that even something as simple as a kiss, should be met with caution when it comes to dating people.
Bottom line! If you have herpes tell the person you are with. And if they suddenly need to tell you something very important, make sure you understand all the facts, FAQ’s, and options before you jump the gun. Herpes is extremely common, and chances are you are closer to it than you might ever think.