Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Saurabh Sethi, MD, MPH
The number one question we receive at The STI Project is, ‘Will anyone ever want to be with me again?’ Usually included is, ‘How do I date with an STD?’ ‘How do I tell a new partner?’ ‘Can I ever have casual sex or just enjoy sex again?’
The good news is that dating, sex, and telling new partners (who will still want to consider a relationship after you tell them) is all possible. The bad news is having an STD, in this case HSV2, can suck, in part, because dating and relationships have to be approached a bit differently. Mainly, they have to be thought about – our hook-up culture encourages us to do and think later. Flip it and reverse it, folks.
This interview very poignantly speaks to the common internal dialog that goes on about dating with an STD so many of us experience after a diagnosis. It gets easier with time and practice, but nothing ever goes back to how it once was (which can also be a good thing).
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
Nothing, at the moment. I am taking a life-hiatus and traveling and spending time with family.
3. What STD/STI do you have/have you had?
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD/STI?
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD/STI?
I am fairly certain that it was an ex-boyfriend whom I was living with. Months after we broke up, I went in for my annual pap and had testing done, and the herpes test came back as positive. I was SHOCKED, as I had never had any symptoms… And then it all came back to me.
I remembered my ex complaining a few times about a ‘chaffing’ he had. Right around that time, he conveniently wanted to go back to using condoms, and somehow, I didn’t put the two together, like an idiot. When I started dating him, I asked if he had been tested and etc., because I had been tested regularly, and he assured me that he had… But this was a man who wouldn’t go to the doctor if he was on his death bed, so I am pretty sure he was fibbing.
I still cannot believe how stupid I was not to figure it out.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD/STI?
Well, I pretty much stopped dating after that. Not entirely, like I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but I just wasn’t actively seeking anyone out.
I had just started seeing someone new when I found out, and he pretty much dumped me right away, so I just figured that no one would be okay with it… But I was wrong. I dated a couple of guys who were fine with it, and then I started to feel slightly better about it, but it still freaks me out.
I feel like I will never be able to enjoy sex again. Even when it happens and protection is involved, I am constantly freaking out in my mind afterwards, because I’m scared I passed it along.
My doctor told me that it isn’t that easily spread and that I shouldn’t worry about it as much as I do, but then I read stuff on the internet, and I get freaked out all over again. Essentially, I have to be hermetically sealed in order to have any kind of sexual relations, and I can still pass it along – that’s how it makes me feel. It depresses me and upsets me, so I try not to think about it.
I also cannot comprehend how this is going to work long-term with someone. It terrifies me, because even if they accept it, I will never be able to fully give myself to them… And the idea of having to use condoms with 1 person for the rest of my life really sucks too.
I try to be positive about this, I really do, but I just hate it, and wish I could go back in time.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD/STI treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
Not really. I’ve only told close friends and people I’ve dated. My friends have been very emotionally supportive.
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 been trying everything! In fact, I am determined to try to get rid of this, even though it is incurable.
Now, I don’t have many outbreaks, and when I do, they’re very mild. I get, like, 1 sore on my butt. But I constantly feel tingly, and it freaks me out, because I don’t know if I am experiencing the shedding or if I am just being paranoid.
I’ve tried Valcyclovir treatment as a suppressive therapy, and then my doctor told me that I shouldn’t take anything for suppression if I don’t get that many outbreaks a year. But I take it anyway for suppression if I am seeing someone, because it makes me feel better about the situation. I don’t even know if I can keep taking the Valcyclovir, because I had a fever and a rash after the last time I took it. I’m planning on going to Planned Parenthood next week and talking to someone about this situation some more.
I have also tried the natural route…I tried a bunch of different supplements: l-lysine, vitamin c, propolis, reishi mushrooms (to improve my immune system), and now I am on a hydrogen peroxide therapy (where you drink a very strong hydrogen peroxide that is diluted with water). It’s supposed to add more oxygen to your blood stream and prevent the virus from acting up.
Does any of this stuff work? I have no idea! I feel like sometimes something works, and then it doesn’t.
The propolis definitely helps with sores. Otherwise, I’ve been trying to exercise regularly and eat healthier and do whatever I can to improve my immune system. Oh, I also had a shaman in Peru tell me that he could cure it with plant medicines… That didn’t work either.
9. Has having an STD/STI hindered past relationships?
I have gotten dumped once; otherwise, I’ve just been trying to avoid relationships, in general.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD/STI affected your partner?
No, I do not.
I am, however, in love with one of my oldest friends and managed to royally screw up the situation because of the herpes. I had heard him make some negative comments about people with STDs in the past, and even though we’ve always had a thing for each other, I just never pursued it, because I assumed that he would not accept me. Well, years went by, and the tension between us just became too much. We started spending quite a bit of time together and messing around and eventually sleeping together (with protection)…and I couldn’t bring myself to tell him.
I have known him for almost 20 years and could not bear the possibility of rejection. And he is also a little dramatic, so I didn’t think he would take it well. At any rate, this was the worst way that I have ever handled this situation. In fact, I care about this man more than any other man that has been in my life…and this is how I treated him. I feel like a complete asshole.
I should have given him the choice instead of making it for him. It was super selfish of me and I hate myself for it. I realize that it isn’t the worst thing that one human being has done to another, but it was not one of my proudest moments.
Oh, and I was right about his reaction, he freaked out and didn’t talk to me for almost a week. I have since left home on a 6 month life-hiatus, and we talk and visit and miss each other and etc… And he says that he wants to pursue something with me when I get back, but I honestly don’t know if he’ll ever be able to get over my ‘situation’, and I don’t know if I want to put him in harm’s way either.
I would be devastated if I passed this on to him. What if I already have?! I asked him to get tested, and he keeps putting it off. I love this man tremendously and could see myself spending the rest of my life with him…but I don’t know if he’s going to be able to be mature enough to handle this…
I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to be comfortable with it myself either. Ugh, I want it to go away!!! I feel like it’s ruining my ‘happy ending’…and maybe part of that is my fault because of my attitude. On a regular day, it doesn’t upset me, but when I am dealing with dating and feelings and sexual encounters and etc., then I cannot stop thinking about it.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD/STI whom you did not tell you had an STD/STI?
I had a protected one-night-stand and didn’t tell him. I felt wrong about it, but that isn’t normal behavior for me.
I have also been orally intimate with another guy a few times and never told him.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD/STI?
I have definitely changed. I don’t enjoy dating now, and this situation makes me overly emotional. I used to be very confident, and now when I am, it’s mostly an act.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I don’t know. I came across The STI Project today, and I was feeling emotional over the situation, so I thought it would be good for me to vent.
The hugest regret I have in my life is dating the man that gave this to me. I feel like it broke me, and I have a hard time trusting people now. And also…I have friends who were way more promiscuous than I was, without using protection, and they never contracted any diseases (that I know of)…. I’m secretly jealous. Why me?!
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!