One in five Americans has genital herpes -- but many don't know it because the symptoms can be mild or even absent. Genital herpes is usually spread by sexual contact and caused by the type 2 herpes virus (HSV-2). However, the type 1 herpes virus (HSV-1), which more commonly causes cold sores, can also infect the genitals -- usually through oral sex.
There's no cure for genital herpes. Once infected, you're infected for life.
Herpes is most often spread from active sores. But you don't have to...
And it's important to understand that genital HSV is very common, affecting about 20% of the U.S. adult population.
Broaching the Topic of Genital Herpes
The first date after a genital herpes diagnosis may seem a little strange, however. If you hope to be sexually intimate with your date at some point, you may feel like you're keeping a secret. If you are one to be candid with people, you'll want to blurt it out. Don't. There are some things you should reveal about yourself right away -- for example, that you're married, or that you're just in town for the week -- but some things are better left for the appropriate moment.
It's up to you to decide the right time to tell a date that you have genital herpes. Follow two rules: First, don't wait until after having sex. Second, don't wait until you're just about to have sex -- in which case the attraction may be too strong for either of you to think rationally and act responsibly.
If in the past you tended to start a new relationship with sex, you now might want to change your approach. It might be better to break the news about herpes to someone who has already grown attached to you. Kissing, cuddling, and fondling are safe, so you don't have to tell before you do that. But use your best judgment as to how physically intimate you want to get before telling. One thing could lead to another, and you might find yourself in an awkward situation.
Dealing With Rejection
Anyone who dates should be prepared for rejection. The person you're seeing may beat a hasty retreat when he or she finds out you have genital herpes. If you get the "I just want to be friends" talk after telling your sweetheart you have herpes, consider this: He or she may have already been looking for a way out, and herpes was as good an excuse as any. What's more, anyone who disdains or humiliates you for having herpes was never worth your while.
Keep dating, and you will find someone who wants to be with you regardless of your condition. There are certainly some who wouldn't mind keeping the intimacy level just short of doing things that could transmit the virus. And of those people, it's likely that at least one will come around, and say, "Hey, I understand there's a risk, but I'm crazy about you, so I'm willing to take it."
Depending on your dating style, you might look for another person who knows he or she has herpes, if only to avoid having to discuss it. If you already use dating services or personal ads, you can also use any of those specifically for people with genital herpes. A search on the Internet for "herpes dating" will turn up several.