To walk across the street is a risk. Mikhail Baryshnikov
So often I see people beating themselves up for acquiring Herpes. The majority of the time, they were just plain blissfully ignorant about the risks, about the fact that we are not automatically tested for H in the STD panel, or they just plain got caught up in the moment … (Damn Hormomones!!!). Many get HSV1 from oral sex because they didn’t know that cold sores could head South (and their “giver” often didn’t know either and/or didn’t know they had the virus because they got it as a child). Others are told by their partner that they are safe as long as they are not having an outbreak, because that is what their Doctor told them. The vast majority of Herpes transmissions are a result of inaccurate information combined with the fact that 80% of the population has no idea they have H. Then, once they get Herpes, they obsess (understandably) about passing it on. Even when you point out that with anti-virals and condoms, the risk falls to about 1-5% (depending on your gender), they are deathly scared about getting in a relationship and passing the virus on to their new partner. So they vow to either become celibate (also perhaps to punish themselves for being so “stupid”), or to only date someone who has H. The problem is, they have forgotten that if you are living life, you are ALWAYS living with risk. The secret here is that once you are educated, you have the power to reduce that risk to an “acceptable” level. Ignorance, as we H+ folks know all too well, is the cause of the vast majority of new cases of Herpes. The following is something that I tell people all the time who are obsessing on the risk factors of passing Herpes on, or who are beating themselves up for having acquired H.
If we get in our car, we do certain things to reduce the risk of injury to ourselves and others. We get a license. We wear a seat belt. We buy a car with Airbags… some also have traction control/all-wheel drive/warning systems/etc. We maintain the tires and brakes. We obey traffic signals and laws. And hopefully we don’t drive impaired. Now, in spite of all that, we might be in an accident some day. Does that automatically make us a bad driver???? NO. Often the other person was impaired/didn’t maintain their vehicle/ran a light/etc. But WE live with the consequences, and some of those consequences are life changing. Do we beat ourselves up for getting in the accident? Probably not. Would our friends ride with us in future? Most likely. EVEN IF you were “that guy” who is known for not being the best driver, most people would stand by you and be there for you. So why are STD’s any different? Because once someone has that “accident” (whether it’s their fault or not) they go into a closet and don’t come out, don’t talk about it, and don’t get support while they heal. Imagine if that happened after every car accident? :/
If you are in this group of people, please understand this. There are many, many discordant couples who have been together for many years where the H- partner never gets Herpes. I know of several who are in the 25+ years mark with a H- partner. I myself have had two 3-year relationships with H- partners (post divorce… my ex-hubby also had H) and they never got it from me… and one was without the anti-virals. It all comes down to becoming informed about the risks, learning your prodrome symptoms, and not taking any chances if you have any concern that you are having an outbreak. And that doesn’t mean you can’t be intimate… if anything, Herpes gives us the excuse to find all kinds of other ways to have fun with our partner! (That is a whole ‘nuther Blog topic!) Like everything else, living with Herpes is all about becoming educated and then reducing your risk of passing H on, and making sure that your partner knows their risk factors so they have choice in the matter. Given that we KNOW our status, we actually have the opportunity to make sure that we do what we can to protect our partner …. the 80% who don’t know they have Herpes are the ones who are more likely to unwittingly spread the virus – and with it, the stigma that surrounds what is ultimately a nuisance skin condition in an inconvenient place.
Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.