Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Talk

I haven't discussed this in a long while, probably over a year, so it'll be news to my newer readers as well as a Public Service Announcement for others.

I guess I'm practicing. The reason I am broaching the subject now is because I need to have The Talk with my Indian friend tomorrow night. She's invited me to go away. She stated herself that she realizes the intentions that implies. It's forcing my hand, though, to tell her that I have herpes. I can't accept her kind offer (which she even later said it'd be her treat) without me being honest.

I've had it for 25 years, since my Senior year of college, and it is something I am always honest about, but there is always a timing consideration. If dating isn't going to lead to sex or anything else, I have no need to tell, although some people tell on or before the first date. If it looks like it's going that direction, I have to tell and I must do it in advance. It is not a good horizontal confession made during the heat of battle.

There are several factors at play. Approximately 25% of the population has herpes. The thing is that 90% of them don't know it or they pretend to not know that ingrown hair which keeps coming up must be something else. People are lucky with me in that I know it and will talk about it.

With so many people having herpes, there's always the chance that I'll get a, "Me, too!" in response. With the people who don't know they have it, it gets trickier. It is important for anyone with herpes who is going to engage in sex with a person of unknown status to have that person get tested; about 23% of the time the result will be positive. Remember, a routine STD panel does not test for herpes, so you have to specifically ask for it and that's a contributing factor to people not knowing. With these safe guards in place, though, the person cannot blame the new sexual partner for something that was pre-existing if an outbreak occurs. Further, fears about transmission are unfounded if positive.

With condoms and Valtrex, there is only a 1% transmission rate and it's seen as practically a cure. I, myself, prefer dating in the herpes community so I don't have to worry either about The Talk or potential transmission. Several men I've dated treated me different as sexual partners and that is insulting; one man even told me after we'd dated, "Cricket, I would have married you, if not for the herpes." Funny, I wouldn't have married any of them. I am much more a person than a silly rash.

Herpes is a skin virus. It has this strange stigma that is undeserved. It doesn't mean I'm dirty or promiscuous. It means I caught a virus, like a cold, that chose to live in a ganglion instead of going away. If you're interested in reading more, Good Virus Bad Virus is a good place to start. Just playing percentages, a hand full of my regular readers have it, whether they know it or not.


NoRegrets said...

I have herpes too! I wrote about it in my blog as a public service announcement sort of thing a while back. It's listed under regret only because the idiot that I got it from didn't tell me the first time we had sex and I was also an idiot by believing all he told me instead of researching it myself.

In any event, I can't believe someone or two actually said that to you! That's a mark against their personality, not you. Wow. I however really don't mind having 'the talk' because it educates and if they don't want to deal with me then I don't want to deal with them.

My favorite site for more info is: http://www.ashastd.org/herpes/herpes_overview.cfm

Cricket said...

Wow, I really appreciate you speaking up. Do you use herpes dating/social/community/support sites?

I remember almost four years ago when I first brought up the topic here, someone replied, to summarize, that neither SHE nor anyone SHE knew had it. I would characterize her as a knowledgeable and progressive person, but she had her head in the sand on that one.

About two years ago, I was raked over the coals about my preference for dating in herpes circles. I take passing it on very seriously and this person was casual about it and dating. Man, those were a heated few days of posting.

I think I've only had one or two other people come forward that they have it. Sometimes it's lonely. Thanks for writing.

Monica Cassani said...

Hi Cricket,
One of my oldest, and closest friends has herpes (as well as a handful of other friends, because, yeah, it IS very common) in any case I only talk regularly about it with this one friend of mine and she is really good about "the talk" just like you.

She's never felt a need to date within the community as you call it. She is simply honest and careful--I believe she's only transmitted it once and that was when she was very young and her boyfriend was reckless...not to absolve her of all responsibility, but he insisted on not using a condom at some point...in any case it made her much more insistent about care not to transmit in the future and to the present day.

I applaud your honesty and wish you the very best when you share the news with this woman.

And I agree with noregrets if someone is worth it they won't let that stop their involvement with you.

Cricket said...

've only transmitted it once and that was with ex. We'd been married five years. We used condoms and I was careful about outbreaks, but there's always the possibility of random viral shedding in between. This was way before Valtrex.

To be clear, though, condoms only solve part of the problem. Outbreaks can occur anywhere and condoms only cover so much.

As far as having a community, I have found it important that it be there, even if I am less active than I could be. I didn't know about social/dating/support sites until six years ago; it is wonderful being around people in the same boat. I prefer dating from the websites; these people understand stigma and pain, which sometimes can be generalized into empathetic and kind perspectives overall.

Tara said...

Although I nor anyone I know of has it, I really admire the fact that you're honest about it when the time comes! Good post!

Brigitte Ballard said...

Yeah... I know someone in my family who has it.

I was once tested for all sorts of std's, but I honestly can't tell you if I was tested for herpes. Hmmmm.

My mother has the std Hep C. She unfortunately got it back in the day when they didn't test blood. Three years ago she had a liver transplant.

I am very greatful for everyone like you that has the talk. Thank you. It gives your partner the ability to choose the amount of risk they are willing to take.

Churlita said...

I dated a guy last Winter and after the fact, someone told me he has it doesn't tell anyone. I've never had it confirmed, but he assured me he was clean before we got physical. I haven't seen any signs of it on me and I worked in an ob/gyn clinic, so I know what I'm looking for. Like I've said before, those of us who don't have it are just lucky.

Also, I agree with NOR, it's a good weeding out process. If a person can't handle that, then you don't want them.

Cricket said...

Thanks, everyone.

The funny thing, Churita, is that many people don't have outbreaks, so there are no outward signs. Some think they don't have it; others think they're over it somehow. Either way, they can still shed the virus and pass it on regardless of having an o/b or not. It's tricky.

I wish I were one of those never had an o/b people!

NoRegrets said...

I don't use any sites at all. I bought the book from the website I listed and I give it to any guy that is thinking about being with me. To date I've never had anyone hold out a cross or pull out garlic to ward me off. I really don't understand the 'staying within the circle', but some people obviously want and need it. Who knows, given I'll start dating sometime in the future, I may change my mind... But no way am I casual about it!

NoRegrets said...

Hey, a recent article on WebMD