Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Saurabh Sethi, MD, MPH
Few things cause more trepidation about the future and situations that have not yet or might never take place than an STD diagnosis. The most common fear among those who are living with a long term infection is that of telling new partners and the rejection they assume is inevitable.
While I cannot promise those fears will never be realized, I know all too well that, often, it is the fear that molds our decisions, determines who we pursue, dictates how long we stay in unhealthy relationships, and is the driving force behind why we learn to cope by denial.
Over time, facing those fears by sharing ours stories with one another will erode the immense power it has over us.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
3. What STD/STI do you have/have you had?
HSV1 and HSV2
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD/STI?
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD/STI?
No – I have an idea of who it was but don’t know for sure.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD/STI?
It hasn’t changed (I have only had 1 genital outbreak) except for my own internal conflict about telling people. I have an Rx for medication, which I have only had to take for cold sores (I get them 1-2 times per year).
7. Do the people who know you have an STD/STI treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
I have gotten cold sores since I was a teen, and I have always disclosed that and never experienced any negative feedback about it.
My doctor and my boyfriend are the only people who know about my HSV2 diagnosis. I initially found out I had HSV2 through a blood test at age 20 but had never had any symptoms at all.
I entered a period of denial in which I refused to accept that I had it and did not tell a single soul. After dating my current boyfriend for about a year, I experienced my first and only outbreak. Still in total denial, I had it swabbed (praying that it was not an outbreak), and it was confirmed as HSV2.
I told my boyfriend; he accepted and did not make a big deal about it. It hasn’t come up in conversation since.
8. Are you currently under treatment for your STD/STI? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.
I have an Rx as needed, which I have only had to use for cold sores – I have only had 1 HSV2 outbreak that resolved quickly and did not require medication.
9. Has having an STD/STI hindered past relationships?
I feel like I should tell my family (I want their support, and I want to be honest about everything with them), but at the same time, because of the way I have heard my family/friends talk about other people with herpes, I don’t want to tell anyone that isn’t necessary.
I understand the need to disclose my diagnosis to sexual partners, and I love my boyfriend for accepting me. However, I know that ‘forever’ rarely happens, chances are we will eventually break up, and I will have to disclose my diagnosis to new partners from the get-go, now that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my HSV2 is real.
This gives me immense fear. If this happens, I will certainly have to tell my family, because I will probably need their emotional support after I’m inevitably rejected by potential partners.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD/STI affected your partner?
Yes. He has been accepting and loving and handled it the best way I could ever imagine. However, our relationship isn’t perfect, and I have fear about disclosing to future partners if we don’t stay together.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD/STI whom you did not tell you had an STD/STI?
After the blood test, I talked myself into believing that my HSV2 diagnosis was not real. I didn’t want to believe it and was in a state of shock and fear. I told no one and never had an outbreak, which made it easy to pretend it didn’t exist.
I dated one person after that and never had an outbreak while we were together.
My first and only outbreak occurred while with my current boyfriend, and I told him as soon as the swab test confirmed HSV2.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD/STI?
I have become extremely fearful and ashamed.
I don’t like keeping secrets, but the only person I have told about my diagnosis is my boyfriend. I am close with friends and family but fear that they would tell others about my diagnosis, it will upset them, they will judge me, etc.
My HSV2 diagnosis has contributed to lots of anxiety.
I know my loved ones would probably accept it, like my boyfriend, and that would make me feel good, but I have had too much fear to have the conversation with them.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I would like advice as to how to handle telling my family about my diagnosis. Is it necessary for me to tell them?
If I never have outbreaks, must I tell future partners when I could just as easily never have found out? I know the answer, but life would be easier if I could live with lying. I know I can’t, though.
I wish I were 1 of the 80% of people who never got diagnosed and just lived in ignorant bliss thinking they had an ingrown hair. I resent myself for getting the initial blood test, not having the strength to tell anyone, being unkind to myself by denying myself any support.
Trusting others requires courage and results in comfort and security, but perhaps I have punished myself by not opening myself up to that.
I wish I could go back in time and have never found out. Thoughts? I also have fears about potential future partners. It’s hard for me to take a hard look at issues within my relationship, partly because I fear having to ever tell anyone else.
Can you relate to this interviewee? Did it help you to read someone else’s story? Have you experienced something similar or do you have some feedback to share with this individual? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!