What Do I Need To Know About Dating With Herpes
Some people feel like their love lives are over when they find out they have herpes, but its just not true. People with herpes have romantic and sexual relationships with each other, or with partners who dont have herpes.
Talking about STDs isnt the most fun conversation youll ever have. But its super important to always tell partners if you have herpes, so you can help prevent it from spreading.
Theres no one way to talk about having an STD, but here are some tips that may help:
Keep calm and carry on. Millions of people have herpes, and plenty of them are in relationships. For most couples, herpes isnt a huge deal. Try to go into the conversation with a calm, positive attitude. Having herpes is simply a health issue it doesnt say anything about you as a person.
Make it a two-way conversation. Remember that STDs are super common, so who knows? Your partner might have herpes too. So start by asking if theyve ever been tested or had an STD before.
Know your facts. Theres a lot of misinformation about herpes out there, so read up on the facts and be prepared to set the record straight. Let your partner know there are ways to treat herpes and avoid passing it on during sex.
Tell your past partners too, so they can get tested.
Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic
You can see a GP, but they’ll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital herpes.
Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.
Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment.
They’ll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.
Whats Involved In Herpes Testing
If there are blisters or sores, a healthcare provider may gently swab the area to take a fluid sample and test it. If there are no sores, but you are concerned you may have been exposed, a blood test may done. Herpes tests are not normally recommended unless you have symptoms.
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The Right Person Won’t Reject You
The truth is, some people will reject you when they find out you have herpes. To quote a herpes support forum poster, “dating with herpes can be stressful.” However, if you do these things, then being diagnosed with herpes is not the end of the world:
- Talk about your diagnosis early
- Have information handy so that you can talk honestly about the actual risks and concerns of the disease
- Be willing to do what you can to reduce the chance you will spread herpes to your partner
Numerous people with genital and oral herpes are open about disclosing their condition. Most of them have active, happy dating and sexual lives. The truth is, it’s so hard to meet the right person that dating with herpes makes it only the tiniest bit harder. Life after herpes doesn’t mean life without love.
My Herpes: From Shame To Empowerment
STD Voices is an NCSD initiative aimed at empowering the voices of people living with or affected by STDs.
I have a masters degree in public health. I have provided HIV and STD prevention education to a variety of audiences. Ive advanced in my career, been acknowledged for my contributions to the field of public health, and honored as a queer woman for contributing positively to the LGBTQ+ community. I now work full time as a director at the National Coalition of STD Directors. And I have herpes.
I have counseled friends when theyve come to me with news of their herpes diagnosis. I have sat with patients after a herpes diagnosis, giving them the pep talk I would end up wishing I had received. I soothed the worries of distraught parents asking if their newly diagnosed teenage daughters clothes could be washed with everyone elses or if they could still babysit their younger cousin.
At the time of my diagnosis, my doctor did not take a sexual history, and we did not discuss how I might have acquired the virus or how I could prevent transmitting it to any future partners. There was no counseling on how to disclose my diagnosis or advice on dating after herpes. There was no concern for my mental health, or how I was digesting this news that so many find devastating. And, as the provider hurriedly left the exam room, I was left to navigate this new and unexpected reality alone.
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Do The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes Return
The symptoms of genital herpes may reappear from time to time. This is because once the herpes virus is acquired, it stays permanently in the body. Most of the time it remains inactive, but every so often it may reactivate and cause another outbreak.
Each individual is different some people never have a recurrence others may have recurrences several times a year. However, recurrent outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first herpes episode.
Certain events or situations can trigger recurrences, and you may be able to help your partner avoid or reduce the trigger factors, which may include stress at work or home, fatigue, ill health, loss of sleep, friction due to sexual intercourse, and menstruation in women.
If your partner has frequent or severe episodes of genital herpes, or if the recurrent outbreaks are causing a lot of anxiety for your partner, then he or she may benefit from suppressive therapy , which prevents or reduces recurrences.
How Do You Prevent Herpes Transmission
Avoid touching any sores you have. If you do, wash your hands with soap and water. You should avoid sex while you have sores, and use a male or female condom or dental dam with your partner if sex occurs despite intentions to not have sex. Herpes is most contagious during an outbreak, but its also possible to spread herpes when no symptoms are present.
A good diet, enough rest and sleep, and effective stress management may help prevent herpes recurrences. If you have oral herpes, avoid getting sunburned.
Getting tested for STDs is a basic part of staying healthy and taking care of your body like brushing your teeth and exercising regularly. Getting tested and knowing your status shows you care about yourself and your partner. STD awareness and testing is a basic part of staying healthy and taking care of your body. Its important to know your risk and protect your health.
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Patience And Time Heal Everything
Its difficult in the real world knowing you have something many people do not have. But with patience and time, everything will be healed. Even when you feel all hope appears to be lost, the moment you are patient and bear in mind that someone is waiting to have you out there, this will go a long way to help you. Many individuals who are diagnosed with herpes probably feel as if the world has ended for them, but with patience, you will progress from that level and discover that it is indeed pretty common and so many people are not even aware that you have it.
Therefore, ensure to know someone really closely and also continually inform them before any sexual intercourse, you wouldnt want to spread any disease of any kind intentionally. It will simply make you feel worse that just having it.
Where To Get Support
If you think you may have caught herpes, book an appointment with your local sexual health clinic, or visit your GP. The HVA provides comprehensive information about all aspects of the condition and runs a helpline offering support and advice. Ella Dawson’s website also contains information from a personal perspective, including So you’ve just been diagnosed with herpes.
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Is There A Stigma Around Herpes
Despite its origins from the same family as less stigmatized conditions like chickenpox and shingles, the herpes virus carries a deep stigma. This stigma may even cause more negativity than the physical symptoms of the virus.
Psychologists believe this stigma exists because herpes is a sexually transmitted infection with no cure. Its hardly a new phenomenon in the past, those with syphilis, HIV, and other communicable diseases have been stigmatized with intense prejudice.
How Is It Treated
Although there is no cure, herpes is a very manageable infection. Your provider may prescribe antiviral medication. Early treatment with antivirals may shorten the course of the painful skin lesions and reduce viral shedding. This may lessen the chance of transmitting the virus to a sexual partner. The same medication may be used to reduce the duration and intensity of future outbreaks.
If you have an active infection:
Follow the full treatment prescribed by your provider.
When you have blisters, use disposable gloves to apply medication.
Wear loose clothing and cotton underwear to allow circulation of air and avoid pressure on the skin which may cause more blisters.
Your provider may prescribe a pain reliever if necessary or you can take Tylenol or Ibuprofen.
Avoid sharing towels or clothing.
Do not use douches, perfumed soaps, feminine hygiene deodorants or other chemicals in the genital area.
Avoid a lot of sunlight or heat since this may cause more blisters.
A warm bath may be soothing.
If urination is painful, it may help to squirt tepid water over the genitals while urinating.
Avoid sexual contact with others when you have an active infection.
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How Do I Take Suppressive Therapy
There are two oral antivirals available for suppressive treatment in New Zealand:
- Aciclovir tablets 400mg taken twice daily, morning and night. If you start suppressive therapy, it is important not to miss any doses and to take it regularly at approximately 12 hourly intervals. If your recurrences are not suppressed by this dose, you should discuss this with your doctor as taking 200mg four times a day may be more effective. Aciclovir is also available in a soluble form if you are unable to swallow tablets.
- Valtrex tablets 500mg taken once a day. People who find aciclovir isnt working in treating problematic recurrent herpes can now access Valtrex by fully subsidised prescription from their doctor through a Special Authority application. This is a new generation antiviral with better absorption.
What To Do If You’re Diagnosed With Genital Herpes
It’s OK to have a lot of feelings and questions when you’re diagnosed with herpes. But no matter how you’re feeling, try to remember that you’re not alone, and your diagnosis doesn’t define you. It’s also important to remember that you can still live a perfectly normal and happy life with herpes. According to Planned Parenthood, the best thing you can do after your diagnosis is to follow your doctor’s recommendations for treatment. That said, Planned Parenthood notes that if you’re struggling with your diagnosis, you can talk to a trusted family member, friend, or therapist to help you cope.
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Your Dating Life Is Not Over
If youve recently found out that you have genital herpes, its easy to assume that your dating life is over.
This is a normal, common reaction. Finding out you have a sexually transmitted infection isnt an enjoyable experience, and its completely normal to assume that catching herpes will mean the end of your sexual and romantic life.
The reality, however, is that genital herpes isnt as big of a deal as you think.
First, genital herpes doesnt affect everyone the same way. Many people with genital HSV-1 or HSV-2 have are asymptomatic, or exhibit very mild symptoms that are either mistaken for other skin conditions or go completely unnoticed. Other people only occasionally deal with outbreaks, and some people can get several outbreaks a year.
Our guide to what you can expect from your herpes outbreak frequency goes through every question you might have about it.
Second, even if you do experience herpes outbreaks, try to remember that theyre temporary. Herpes outbreaks can happen frequently or infrequently, depending on the type of virus you have, your immune system and other factors every person is different.
However, the physical symptoms of a herpes outbreak dont stick around for long. Usually, your body will repel the virus and heal within two to three weeks, giving you months in between each outbreak for you to enjoy a normal dating life.
For more information on this, we have a guide to When is it Safe to Kiss Someone After a Cold Sore?
Are Any Other Treatments Effective Against Genital Herpes
The antiviral drug Aciclovir was the first therapy which had been shown conclusively to be effective in treating genital herpes. New antiviral drugs have become available which work in a similar way to Aciclovir, are more effective and require less frequent dosing to treat or suppress the recurrence.
These are not available in New Zealand. Recent studies using an HSV-2 vaccine are showing some promise in both the prevention and transmission of HSV-2. However, these are still in the developmental research stage and will not be available commercially for some years.
Many people find that having a healthy diet, eating regularly and getting enough sleep are helpful in preventing recurrences.
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What Is A Herpes Flare
When herpes flares up again, it is called a “recurrence” or “outbreak.” Herpes does not always recur, and if it does recur, the timing and severity are different from person to person. Some people rarely have recurrences. Others have them often. Herpes is most likely to recur in the first year after infection. Recurrences may be more frequent for people with weakened immune systems.
You may have some early warning signs before an outbreak occurs, like tingling, burning, or itching where sores were before. The warning signs may start a few hours or a day or so before the sores flare up. When symptoms recur, they are usually not as severe as symptoms during an initial herpes outbreak.
Shingles And Your Eyes
If the shingles rash breaks out on the face, near the eye, the vision may be affected. An ophthalmologist should be consulted right away when pain or other symptoms of shingles affect the eye or the area near the eye.
Shingles painand other symptoms from an outbreak of herpes zosterusually lasts between three to five weeks. Most people experience shingles once, but in some instances, people will continue to experience pain. When this happens, its called postherpetic neuralgia .
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Coping With The Herpes Diagnosis
Anger, violation, and shame are typically the first on-set of feelings that are felt after being told youre going to have to deal with herpes for the rest of your life. You may also feel like youre the only one your friends and family will know that have it.
Wait, do you even want them to know? Who gave it to you? How do you even approach living your life with herpes now? These are some of the initial thoughts thatll probably race through your mind in the same doctors office where you just found out a few seconds ago.
Although diagnoses are overwhelming and can be traumatic by nature, theres also a positive in it. You can take power and control of your life by knowing whats going on with your body. In fact of the 20 percent of people who have HSV-2, only 10 to 15 percent of them know that they have it. Thats because at least 10 percent of herpes sufferers have mild to no symptoms at all. Herpes can produce quite mild symptoms to where you can mistakenly attribute it to various other problems without even thinking it could be a sexually transmitted disease. This then encourages the unintentional cycle of passing herpes on. With having an official diagnosis, you can
How Does Genital Herpes Affect A Pregnant Woman And Her Baby
Neonatal herpes is one of the most serious complications of genital herpes.5,16 Healthcare providers should ask all pregnant women if they have a history of genital herpes.11 Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, or babies may be infected shortly after birth, resulting in a potentially fatal neonatal herpes infection. 17 Infants born to women who acquire genital herpes close to the time of delivery and are shedding virus at delivery are at a much higher risk for developing neonatal herpes, compared with women who have recurrent genital herpes . 16,18-20 Thus, it is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. Women should be counseled to abstain from intercourse during the third trimester with partners known to have or suspected of having genital herpes. 5,11
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Adjusting To A Herpes Diagnosis
The first step in dealing with a herpes diagnosis, then, is recognizing it as a common, manageable virus, not a punishment or judgment. The next step is realizing that health is never perfect. In reality, everyone faces a host of physical challenges as inevitable as life itself. The task is to meet them and get past them. Fortunately, most people with herpes find that, with time, they are able to adjust to the medical and emotional impact of herpes and move on.
If you are experiencing a strong emotional response to a diagnosis, it might be helpful to explore why those feelings may be happening. Closely connected to the issue of self-image is the matter of how we believe others see us. This is where the social stigma about genital herpes whether perceived or real can be pinpointed.
In the meantime, of course, its very difficult to separate how one feels about having herpes from worries about how others might feel. Should you tell a friend? Will you be able to remain sexually active? How can you tell a sexual partner or romantic interest? When is the best time to tell? Concerns about any or all of these questions are not unusual for someone newly diagnosed. Rejection and misunderstandings about the nature of a herpes infection can and do happen. But a myriad of personal accounts suggests that in the great majority of cases, herpes does not stand in the way of successful, enduring relationships.