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How Do I Tell My Partner I Have Herpes

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Updated May 23, 2014

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Question: How Do I Tell My Partner I Have Herpes
When you have genital herpes, it can be very difficult to bring up your condition with a new romantic partner. Although herpes is just a virus, it's extremely socially stigmatized, and many people are afraid that they may be rejected because of their condition. Although it is true that some people will be unable to see past a genital herpes diagnosis, many people who are living with herpes have found love. You can too.
Answer: The most important thing you can do when you're fretting, "how do I tell my partner I have herpes?" is educate yourself about genital herpes and its transmission. That way you can answer any of your partner's questions. You can also refer them to well researched resources, such as these pages, to get answers themselves, and you may even want to have print outs of useful pages such as the herpes overview here or the CDC Herpes Fact Sheet.

Below, I've written a script to help you get started thinking about some of the issues involved in telling someone you have herpes. One thing to consider is that it's better to disclose before you plan any type of sexual intimacy, to give your partner time to digest the information. That way you can avoid either one of you doing anything you'll regret in the heat of the moment. When you've just started dating, herpes can seem like something that's impossible, but it doesn't have to be.

Wondering why you have to disclose? Cory Silverberg, the Guide to Sexuality has a great primer on the ethics involved.

How Do I Tell My Partner I Have Herpes?

I really like you, and I like the way this relationship is going, but before we become intimate I need to tell you that __ years ago I was diagnosed with genital herpes. I know that hearing the word herpes freaks a lot of people out, but before you panic there are some things I want to make sure you know about the disease. The first is that herpes is extremely common - the CDC estimates that almost one in four women and one in eight men have genital herpes, although very few of them actually know they have it since most doctors don't screen for it routinely even if they're doing other STD tests. In many people herpes doesn't cause any symptoms, which is why it's so common.

I don't know if you've been tested for herpes, but being diagnosed the way that I was has really led me to believe in the importance of getting tested myself, and asking my partners to be tested, before we start having sex so that we know where we stand. It can be scary waiting to find out results, or dealing with them, but I think it's only fair to treat the people I care about the way I would want to be treated, and that means being up front and honest about information that I think they have a right to know. I would like to be intimate with you in the future, so if you haven't been tested recently it would be great if you would consider doing so. I really like you, or else I wouldn't be having this awkward conversation.

Finally, since I would like to have sex with you eventually, there is one more thing I wanted to bring up. Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent herpes transmission between two people, daily suppressive therapy can help reduce transmission, and I am taking(considering taking/not taking) it. Using barriers for all forms of sex, including oral sex, can also help reduce transmission and I think we should plan on doing so. I'll also let you know if I think I may be having an outbreak so that we can do other things.

I really hope I haven't scared you off. Please take some time to read about herpes someplace with reliable information and think about what I've told you. In the mean time... do you want to get dessert?

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  3. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
  4. Viral Diseases
  5. Herpes
  6. Living with Herpes
  7. How Do I Tell My Partner I Have Genital Herpes

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