It’s Time to Talk About STIs

It’s time to talk about sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  It’s going to come up.  You are dating now.  The question is, how will you handle it?

He sent me an message on a dating site, looking for a regular partner for sex, nothing else.  At this time in my dating life, that didn’t sound like an awful idea.  I was up for meeting him and discussing.  I would call this the extended version of Reid’s “safer sex elevator speech“.  We sat on his sofa.  I sipped on a bottle of water as we discussed sex and sex as an older woman.  He was in his late 20s.  He seemed to find my attitude refreshing.  In this safe space, he moved to the topic of STIs.  This is when he disclosed he was HSV2 positive.  HSV2 is commonly known as genital herpes.  This was my first experience with a STI positive potential partner.  I hadn’t prepared for this moment.  We discussed what he knew about HSV2, how he was managing it, and what protocol was appropriate for my safety.  I said I wanted to have time to think about it.  This wasn’t a romantic partner.  This wasn’t a partner I had feelings for.  I didn’t know how I felt about taking on this additional risk just for casual sex.

I didn’t have to make that decision because I wasn’t really attracted to him.  The chemistry wasn’t strong enough.  Out of mind.  Moving on.  No decision to be made.

Fast forward many months and I see this man walk into a party I am at and I am immediately drawn in.  Unusual for me, I walk up and ask our mutual friend to introduce us.  We seemed to have an interest in each other.

There is nothing better than being able to run to the popular kink social media site and look someone up and see what their kinks are.  You think Facebook stalking is fun?  This takes it to a new level.  So late that evening, when I returned home, I looked him up and the first thing I see is that he is very upfront about his HSV2 positive status.  Mind you, he isn’t local and who knows when I will cross paths with him again.  But here I was confronted with the question again… what would I do?

The next day I shared that I had a small crush with two friends.  One immediately knew who I was referring to and her response was, “Have you looked/read his entire profile honey?”

“I have.”

“There’s some very important warning on there…or at least there was.”

“I know.  I read it.”

I felt the stigma.

My other friend looked him up as we were texting about the party the night before.  Same thing.  “He’s HSV2 positive.”

“Yes.  It’s something to discuss if and when I see him.  I’ve only had a little experience with that.”

“I’m surprised you would even consider it honestly.”

Again, I felt the stigma.

Here’s what I learned this time that I didn’t know last time this was up for discussion:  HSV2 isn’t on your standard STI panel.  So if you think because you had a clean STI test, that you are negative for HSV2, you are mistaken.  You also need to make sure you are getting the correct HSV2 test.  Many tests being offered aren’t going to give you accurate results.  Also, it can take up to 6 months for antibodies to show.  I know I haven’t been specifically tested for it.  So I honestly don’t really know my status and most people don’t. Here is a great post about testing for HSV2.

Other snippets of knowledge worth sharing:

  • You don’t have to have a breakout to have HSV2.
  • You can transmit HSV2 (and HSV1 for that matter) without having a breakout.  You can still shed the virus without a breakout.  So avoiding contact during a breakout is great, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still transmit it when you aren’t in a breakout.
  • Anti viral medication is available but only reduces your chance of transmission by 50%.
  • HSV2 (and some other STIs) are transmitted by skin to skin contact.  So while condoms are always part of my risk aware sex protocol, condoms won’t necessarily protect you from HSV2.

All of this new information about lack of testing, etc. left me in an ethical dilemma.  I am going to get flack for this attitude, I am sure.  But I have to ask if I even want to know my own status?  Look at the stigma.  I felt the stigma just over sharing that I have a crush.

Most people haven’t even been tested, I am sure of that, and yet they freak over someone who is openly sharing his status.  He could have chosen to privately disclose his status to just potential partners.  Instead he took a very public stance in sharing.  That is very brave.

What would you do?  That is a question you might want to start considering now, before you end up in the situation requiring an answer.  You might want to make that decision now, not in the heat of the moment.

I try to test for STIs every 6 months.  I am due and will be making an appointment today.  I have to ask myself the question:  now that I know that I have to ask for a specific test, how would I feel knowingly not knowing?  Stay tuned.

(Here is a great article on the stigma of genital herpes.)

 Read my follow-up post here.

 

 

 

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