Herpes. For some, just the word alone can result in a rollercoaster of emotions. So to find out you have herpes, can feel really scary. But it shouldn’t be. While herpes may not be cured with an antibiotic, like other STIs, it is treatable. People don’t “suffer” from herpes; people live with it and continue to have great lives — and sex lives too.
But, as is the case with any STI you have, it is something that you need to tell your partner. If you’re going to be a responsible sexually active person in this world, you owe to yourself and everyone you sleep with to be honest about anything you have that could possibly be transmitted to them.
“Any diagnosis of an STI can be frightening/upsetting/insert-other-not-good-feeling, but it is not the end of the world. I feel like I say that so often, but it really is the case,” Dr. Megan Stubbs, Ed.D, a sex and relationship expert, tells Bustle. When telling your partner, either potential or existing, “honesty and upfront communication are key. Try to find a neutral location for this conversation to happen. Right before bed or when you're about to be sexual isn't the ideal setting," Stubbs says.
According to the Center for Disease Control, "more than one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes," also known as HSV-2, in the United States. As for oral herpes, HSV-1, that number is much higher, with the World Health Organization estimating that 3.7 billion people under 50 have it. Because oral herpes, aka cold sores, are so common, many people may not think they need to have a conversation about it with their partner — but because oral herpes can be transferred to the genitals, it's still a conversation that needs to happen.
"It just takes that skin on skin contact to transmit the virus, so when we think about oral sex, we need to think about our oral herpes," Dr. Stubbs says. "Again, this may take some time for them to process. Herpes is so common, but some people may still be unaware of the finer details of the virus... it's something that you should disclose to your partner so that they can make informed decisions regarding their own sexual wellbeing."
It should also be noted that if you have herpes, genital or otherwise, it’s not as though you will be walking around with sores for the rest of your life, but there is no cure. According to the Mayo Clinic, herpes treatment comes in the forms of prescription antiviral medications like Acyclovir (Zovirax) and Valacyclovir (Valtrex). These medications not only help to heal sores faster than they would without them, but also help to prevent future outbreaks, as well as the severity of those outbreaks. While medications also minimize the chance of transmitting the virus to others, there is still no guarantee, and wearing condoms, even if there isn’t a current outbreak, is always necessary.
With that in mind, find a cozy place, get your facts straight, and tell your partner you need to have a chat, start with: