Herpes, the friendly virus! Not many know that they have this virus and yet all they care about is the more deadly ones, HIV! Why is that so? Are we just being virus biased, or is it because we don’t really know what herpes is to begin with? Although herpes is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases, it’s shrouded in stigma.
HSV 1/HSV 2
Herpes is an infection caused by HSV (herpes simplex virus). This virus affects the external genitalia, anal region, mucosal surfaces, and skin in other parts of the body. Herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2 are both types of herpes virus.
HSV-1 is by far the most common, so common that many acquired it during childhood. It can affect oral and genitalia in both men and women. This virus infection is lifelong. HSV-1 is transmitted oral-oral route and can also be transmitted during oral sex. Did you know, receiving oral sex from somebody who has cold sores around their mouth significantly raises the risk of becoming infected. There’s no need to panic if you find out that you have the virus. Many people carry the virus and can potentially spread it others but don’t have any visible, obvious symptoms.
HSV-2 is less common but still widespread. This type of virus is the main cause of genital herpes. This infection is lifelong and not curable. Medications can only reduce the severity and frequency of the outbreak. HSV-2 is more common in women than in men, because the virus can spread more easily from men to women than vice-versa as a result of anatomical differences.
Breaking the news
There are few scenarios that can take place when we talk about breaking the news about herpes. For example:
- Heterosexual couples with the male partner positive for HSV
In this case, the male partner should be open regarding his status prior getting into a sexual relationship with his current partner. If he has not been open about his status, she would have no idea that he is infected and may proceed with unsafe sexual practice. This in whole, would jeopardise her sexual health as well. DO NOT PLAY THE BLAME GAME!
Always try to have safe sex if you have not tell your partner regarding your HSV status. If you fail to, and she starts having symptoms, this is the time to tell her. At least she knows that she should go and get herself checked without delaying time.
Did you know? The transmission from an infected male to female is higher compared to the vice versa.
Many manly men out there would not want to expose themselves because they don’t like being blamed later. This is nothing to be ashamed about, in fact it is something you should tell for the benefit of your partner. Make your partner understand regarding HSV, and for all you know she might also be open to you. If she is scared or not acceptive, time to move on because you know it will not work out.
- Heterosexual couples with the female partner positive for HSV
With the world moving so fast forward, having few partners before committing into one permanent relationship has become a norm. At times, we won’t be aware of what we are getting ourselves into because we will be blinded by love. Once we, the females start to develop symptoms related to STIs, only then we would think back on our mistakes. So, you get yourself tested and you have tested positive for HSV. How would you move on with your sex life?
To begin with, first things first, always inform your partners. It is the right to know and they too should go get tested and treated if needed. How do you tell them? Well this differs according to situations. If you are in an active relationship, sit down, take a deep breathe and explain to them regarding HSV. DO NOT PLAY THE BLAME GAME! Never ever blame your partner or accuse them of cheating. You might have not been infected by your current partner, maybe the culprit was your previous partner. You will never know. In fact, you don’t need to do the FBI work here to figure out who it is, but learn how to live by it!. If you are not in a serious relationship and it was a one off thing, do you really think he might know already? Or maybe, you could just do your part by informing him.
- Same-sex couples with one of them positive for HSV
When it comes to same-sex couples, things are a little different. How so you could ask. Let’s just put it that, these couples are more adventurous. Most, not all, prefers to be in an open relationship where they can experiment and have fun while trying to figure out their taste in their partners. This situation may bring you some excitement but may also give you certain types of STIs.
How would you know if you are infected? Some would come to the clinic with simple complaints such as burning sensation during urination or the man-hood is itching. Some will also come in with complaints of painful blisters. At the doctors we would some testings, and provide you with some antivirals if we think you have HSV.
So, how would you tell your partner? Keep it simple but make sure you have all the information at hand. You might go through some rapid fire rounds with your partner because they too want to find out information as much as possible. You should always tell your partner/partners. Help put a stop in spreading HSV. Be ready for all the drama that will take place.
Coming to terms with HSV
If you’ve just learned that you have genital herpes, you may feel scared, confused, and even ashamed. But don’t panic. Genital herpes is manageable. You can have a normal life with good relationships.
You may be in different type of relationships or you are just trying to figure out where you fit in. It really doesn’t matter how you are going to open up to your partners. Here are some common tips to breaking the news:
- Really educate yourself as much as you can so you can help your partner or potential partner to understand
- To get your facts straight, speak with a doctor or other healthcare practitioner
- Understand that everyone experiences herpes differently
- Collect yourself emotionally before speaking with others
- Discuss having genital herpes before having sex with a partner
- Keep any rejection that occurs in perspective
- Give yourself credit for being honest with partners
- If you have a committed partner, think about seeing a healthcare provider together
Bear in mind, I am not telling anyone to look forward to having genital herpes, but if it happens, it is generally not the end of the world. Things can be brought for discussion.
No matter what your questions are, we are here to help you! We at DTAP offer short counselling sessions along with consultations for STIs. We at DTAP are willing to address your doubts. We also offer anonymous HIV testing.
READ: STD Testing