Being told that you have herpes, an incurable STD, can be frightening, but it’s not going to be as bad as you think. Agreed that it’s no walk in the park, but it’s not the end of the world either.
A large part of your denial and embarrassment may have to do with the fact that we live in a society that, in general, still considers STDs as something that happens only to people who are morally loose. But the fact is, nearly one out of every six people in the United States today have genital herpes – one of the two common types of herpes.
If you have been recently diagnosed with herpes, here are a few things you need to know.
Coping with the diagnosis
Shortly after your initial reaction of denial and embarrassment comes anger – anger at the person who gave you the infection. If your partner knowingly withheld the information from you, that was undoubtedly wrong on his or her part, but there is nothing you can do about it now. Be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Many people have no symptoms at all, while others have very mild symptoms that are often mistaken for other illnesses. Your partner may not even be aware that he or she has herpes. Also remember that it is very difficult to pinpoint who gave the infection to whom – unless you got tested prior to entering the relationship.
As a first step towards learning to live with herpes, find out as much as possible about the infection. It will take you closer towards accepting the diagnosis and preparing yourself for what lies ahead. There are many in-person and online support groups or helplines also available to hash out your concerns and doubts. You will get a chance to talk to people who have experienced what you are going through.
Telling your partner
Telling your partner about your diagnosis may be one of the most difficult things you will do in your life, but it has to be done. If you’ve both been together for a long time, he or she may also have to get tested. If you are in the initial stages of a relationship, it is still better to have the discussion now rather than later.
In both cases, be prepared to share whatever information you have. Some people may require time to fully understand the situation, so be flexible. If your partner really cares about you, he or she will appreciate your honesty and support you.
You may also want to tell former sexual partners so that they can get tested too. While it is always better to have the conversation in person, there are some websites that allow you to send an anonymous notification to a person informing them that he or she may have been exposed to an STD.
Do not let your embarrassment or fear of rejection stop you from doing the right thing.
Being diagnosed with herpes does not signal the end of your sex life. You can still have sex as long as you use protection and your partner understands the complications and is willing to take on the risk. Health care providers can prescribe you daily antiviral medications that can prevent outbreaks and reduce the risk of transmission to your partner. They may also be able to guide you on what sexual activities are safe and what are not.
But as a rule, abstain from sex whenever you are having an outbreak. Herpes infections are mostly transmitted through contact with lesions or genital or oral secretions, which means that a condom doesn’t always guarantee complete protection against the disease. And you also need to know that genital herpes is transmittable even when you don’t have any symptoms.
Staying aware of your health
You may have many outbreaks over the next year. But over time, your outbreaks will become less frequent and less severe. Most often, stress and fatigue are the major triggers behind an outbreak. A healthy diet, rest, and exercise can help you lower your trigger factors.
Pregnant women who contract genital herpes very late in the pregnancy have a high risk of passing the disease to the child during vaginal delivery. So you need to make sure that your doctor is aware of your infection and has taken necessary steps to prevent transmission.
Herpes can also make you more vulnerable to certain other diseases. For instance, when you have genital herpes, your risk of contracting an HIV infection increases due to the open sores and skin lesions.
Kurt Jacobson is an expert health blogger and now working as Chief Editor at STDCheakup.net. He enjoys writing about general health, reproduction and sexual health, women’s health etc. His main gig is to writing in depth.
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