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Health & Sex

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Dating With Herpes

One woman's story.

The Silent Approach

In 1989, when I got herpes, the nurse told me I couldn't transmit the virus unless I was having an outbreak. (At the time, many doctors and other health care providers believed this to be the case, although a number of research studies had already suggested otherwise.) So, I decided to keep quiet. For three years, I had a boyfriend who never knew I had herpes. Each time I had an outbreak, which for me consisted of a very small cluster of blisters that lasted two or three days, I'd pretend I had a yeast infection and say I couldn't have sex until it was gone.

By the time I finished college in 1994, the possibility of spreading the virus even when you didn't have an outbreak had become more widely accepted by health care providers. I was still uncomfortable about bringing up the subject, but now I didn't have much of a choice. I didn't date for awhile, but inevitably, I met someone.

Telling All

I held off on sex for as long as I could, but it got more and more difficult. One day, my new beau reassured me, "I'm disease-free, I just got tested. You have nothing to worry about."

I appreciated his honesty and knew I had to tell him that he was the one who had something to worry about.

Soon, my secret was out. I explained that I had herpes, and that was why I was being so cautious. I told him that to my knowledge I had never spread the virus to anyone else, and that I was very careful. I had always insisted on using condoms, which can reduce the risk of transmission. My selling point, however, was telling him that approximately one in four people has herpes and, statistically speaking, he undoubtedly had slept with someone who had herpes. He said he would know if he had been with someone who had herpes.

"How?" I asked.

He thought about that for a minute and then realized he might not know. In the end, instead of rejecting me, he chose to continue our relationship. What a relief. But after we had sex, he would always wash himself like a doctor scrubbing down for an operation. I could hardly blame him, but it wreaked havoc on my self-esteem. Since he was disease-free, he refused to wear condoms, instead choosing the scrub-down -- something that would do nothing to prevent herpes transmission.

That relationship eventually came to an end, leaving me worried yet again about getting back in the dating game. Then, while surfing the Web for information on the latest herpes medication, I stumbled across a web site for people with herpes.

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