Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
From our initial email exchange as a result of her anonymous submission via the contact form to the interviewee’s follow-up message describing ‘The Talk’ she had with a new beau, this reader experienced the full range of emotions that often accompanies an STD diagnosis.
What’s more, from being alone literally and figuratively after her late fiance’s passing and a new diagnosis, to discovering how well a new relationship can progress when founded on disclosure, honesty, and sincere affection, the tenacity it took to endure that progression of events shines through.
Tenacity of character and a complete willingness to disassociate oneself with stigma and misconceptions – of which you may have previously thought to be true – is not a simple feat, and, for that, I applaud you.
Thank you, reader, for sharing this progression with others!
1. How old are you?
I am 21.
2. What do you do for a living?
I work night shift as a RN on a TMS floor.
3. What STD/STI do you have/have you had?
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD/STI?
Approximately 10 months ago, I suspected that I may have it but tested negative. Last month, I was retested and found out that I was, in fact, positive for HSV2.
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD/STI?
My late fiance and I had unprotected sex. He also gave me chlamydia – which we found out about together. He was embarrassed, and we were both treated. He died in May, before I found out about my diagnosis.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD/STI?
It hasn’t, really. I’m not sure if it will or not. It’s really too soon to figure it out since I’m not interested in pursing a relationship for other, obviously, personal and emotional reasons.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD/STI treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
Only my roommate, best friend, and late fiance’s sister know. All of them have been very supportive and caring. They don’t think of me any differently and are only concerned for my well-being.
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 took valtrex for the outbreak last month. I haven’t decided if I want to take a suppressant regularly – what the benefit of that would really be and if there’s any reason for it. I think it’s too soon to decide. I want to wait and see how often/how bad my outbreaks are and what my future partner and I decide.
9. Has having an STD/STI hindered past relationships?
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD/STI affected your partner?
Again, not applicable.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD/STI whom you did not tell you had an STD/STI?
Unfortunately, I have, but it was because I didn’t know I had it. The moment I tested positive, I notified him and he got tested.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD/STI?
I have been reflecting on it quite a bit, and I don’t think I have. I am minorly concerned about how ‘the talk’ will go when it comes to that point in my life, but I am confident that whomever I choose to be with will handle the news appropriately. I think I have realized, I need to be more protective of my body and my health. Again, I am kind of new to all of this.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I am looking for support, for resources, and for the reassurance that I’m not going to die alone. My late fiance isn’t here to go through this with me, and I’m feeling pretty alone.
Since our initial email exchange, the interviewee has sent this update:
Just thought I would update on my interview. I told my first romantic interest about having HSV, and it went amazingly well.
I read advice on when to do it and how to do it before it happened. Per the stuff I read, I opted to not inform him until we were getting intimate. So, I kept [intimacy] pretty PG13, and when he asked why we hadn’t moved further, I mentioned emotional stuff – which is also true due the recent loss of my last partner. When I realized I was interested in pursing a relationship with him, I also realized, if he cared about me, this wouldn’t or shouldn’t affect what we could be, and I knew I would have to tell him.
Following advice I read online, I sat down with him. He already knew that my previous partner had given me chlamydia, so it was an easy starting point. ‘As you know, ***** gave me chlamydia. Well, he also gave me HSV2 – herpes.’ I told him statistics I had researched regarding how many people have it, how likely it is to pass along using various methods and the ways we can protect him. I told him that it seemed quite easily managed and that I was sure we would be able to maintain a healthy, normal, sexual relationship.
The only problem with the whole thing was that I felt the social stigma, the pain and shame from even admitting that I have it. And I hate that! I shouldn’t feel guilty that I was monogamously intimate with someone I loved and trusted. It isn’t my fault.
Anyway, I told him I wanted to tell him, because I wanted to prevent transmission to him. I didn’t want to mislead him, or trick him into having sex and then tell him afterwards, because that wouldn’t be fair to him. He deserved to know, to learn about the disease and make an educated decision. I cried off and on through my rant, and he listened patiently. He responded perfectly, telling me he truly respected and appreciated my honesty. He told me he didn’t care and was more than happy to work through it with me.
I am still not going to be taking regular oral medication – mostly for cost purposes. I have, however, been taking L-Lysine daily to see if that helps. Since I’ve only had one outbreak, it’s hard to tell it’s doing much, but, I figure, it can’t hurt.
We have yet to be sexually intimate and haven’t discussed condom usage, but I feel quite strongly that we should use them. If he disagrees, then that is his prerogative, I suppose, because I have ensured that he is very informed on the situation.
I feel blessed. I had no idea it would go so smoothly. When I was diagnosed (and then went to another physician to get it checked again), I felt like I would never be in a relationship again. I felt, for sure, that my love life was over! How could I ever tell someone this? How could anyone ever want to be with me?
[The experience] is reassuring and gives me faith in mankind, faith in love, and faith in myself. It gives me hope.
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!