Undisclosed STD’s: The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Disclosing an STD to a new potential partner can be tricky! Read on for Dr. Sheila Loanzon’s expert advice on how to tackle this thorny topic like a boss.
At what point do you tell a potential date that you have herpes?
I personally prefer not to tell people on a first date or online via a dating profile or my herpes status. It’s important to make sure that you even like the person before disclosing something so personal about yourself. I encourage people when they think the relationship is either heading towards an intimate situation, or they’ve gotten to know the person well enough, then that would be the best time to disclose. Because in the end, you want to make sure that you like this person and could see some type of relationship, whether it is physical or more emotional, than just disclosing to people right off the bat. But everyone’s stance can be different.
I know some people do inform straight off the bat, perhaps for shock value when reading an online profile and to weed out people immediately. When I was online dating, I was looking for a parter that I could see the rest of my life with, and I didn’t think that disclosing something so personal in the beginning would be the best way to determine if I liked someone or not. Because in the end, I am a person with herpes, not just herpes alone. I want them to know me too before passing judgement.
What’s the best context in which to broach the herpes issue?
I think that it is really important when disclosing to somebody that you choose the right location. Your best bet is not to have this intimate conversation when you’re in a restaurant where a waitress could ask you if you want some more wine, or there are children running around and you can’t have an open conversation, or it’s just too loud and you can’t even talk to each other.
How much detail do you go into with your date?
I think it’s very important to know the facts — you know, true facts — not just something that was found on the internet that may not be a true source, or may be a sensationalized source. Knowing the partner is important too. Some partners want to know every single nuanced detail, where some may want more of a broader picture, and then hone in on the details that matter to them. Some of your dates may have actually dated other people who have herpes.
I’ve been in all of those situations, and I just said, “Well, is there any question that you want to know before we move forward?” And his response was actually, “Well do you have an outbreak now? No? OK, well let’s go for it.” Whereas others have said, “OK, well can you give me a little bit of a brief overview.
I think I’d like to do research on my own, and then let’s talk about it in like a week.” And then some of them actually come up with really great questions that I didn’t have the exact answer to, so I was like, “You know, why don’t we go research that together because that’s actually something that I don’t know.” And then you guys can go and learn together.
I also recommend composing a script when disclosing to partners. When face-to-face with someone you like with their undivided attention, the words can simply escape your brain.
By having something written down, it’s accurate, it’s phrased well, and, if you’re stumbling or freaking out or crying, which is what happened my first time I disclosed, you have something you can read and fall back on. Preparation is important. I found that when I did have these sensitive vulnerable conversations with partners, they were actually sweet, attentive, and met my concern. They could see that I was feeling very vulnerable and that I wanted to be very honest, and so a lot of times they were like, “Oh, this is something significant that she wants to talk about.” So they would pay attention to exactly what I was saying.
What if the idea of herpes scares a date off?
In the end, if someone decides they don’t want to be with you because herpes is a very scary thing to them, I think it’s important to realize that they have a judgement of the virus, not necessarily on the person that is you. It’s important to differentiate that, because it’s their fear that’s coming through of the virus and what that could mean for them. It is a little bit selfish, and that’s OK, they can be.
I don’t think that’s a reflection of the core person that’s sitting in front of them. This is a very important distinction to realize, because perhaps that person might be a really great partner, and just may not be the right person for you. We don’t need to judge them any further on that.
Will using a condom make me 100% safe from transmission?
Condoms do protect a lot of the genital skin, but they don’t protect all skin exposure. Condoms are only 96% effective. A common misconception is to think condoms are completely foolproof, protecting against all STDs. But even from oral,vaginal, and anal sex, you can still get that skin to skin contact.
Conversely, people think transmission is 100% inevitable. Currently, the research states that a herpes-positive male who’s having unprotected sex with a susceptible female, has the transmission risk of 10%. A herpes-positive female who is having unprotected sex with a susceptible male, the transfer rate is only 4%. This data assumes that the herpes positive person is not sexually active when there is an active outbreak, no daily antiviral medication is being used, and is not regularly using condoms.
How should a couple cope at the times when one has an outbreak and the other wants to have sex and is feeling frustrated?
With herpes, sometimes outbreaks happen at the most inopportune, cumbersome times which can remove spontaneity, excitement, and fun. However, even in relationships where herpes isn’t involved, it is important to remember that the wind can be taken out of sails when there is unexpected career drama, children sickness, or partner stress issues which can change libido. It is important not to blame the other person as this type of finger pointing can be hurtful, increasing pressure and may cause damaging effects to the relationship.
My hope is that you are in a loving, supportive relationship where unplanned situations do not destroy the night. Sexual frustration can easily be dealt with through masturbation and not blame!
This guest post was authored by Dr. Sheila Loanzon
Raised in San Jose, California Dr. Sheila Loanzon completed an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York in 2002. Shortly after graduation, she traveled as a Delegate to the International Mission on Medicine to China based on academic achievement, leadership ability, and dedication to the medical profession. During this short four-week course, Traditional Chinese Medicine taught the governing philosophy that the body is whole, intimately connected, and has the potential to cure its own diseases. Dr. Loanzon discovered that nontraditional medicine and Western medicine should exist side by side, as both have their advantages, and thus her interest in osteopathic medicine began.