Why isn't Herpes discussed at cocktail parties?

It's silly that in this day and age herpes is still a socially taboo topic. Magic Johnson can stand up in front of media and fans to state he's HIV positive and the audience is proud of his courage to publicly announce his condition and his support to help find a cure.

Why has no celebrity or other public figure come forward to state, "I have herpes..."? How can we consider a cure for a condition that's now considered an epidemic if no one will even talk about it? At the very least, anyone who suffers from this disease should feel comfortable discussing it in hopes of finding better treatments and social acceptance.

Unfortunately, it seems that only when a public figure steps forward to support or endorse something, others will feel comfortable doing the same. But if that helps rally people together to build acceptance, then let it happen, and soon.

Web sites like this and others are a good start. There has always been a strong support network through clinics, but in the past, one had to call an 800 number, leave a voicemail, and wait for someone to return the call to confirm a mailing address to send pamphlets of information. Thankfully, with the evolution of the Internet, there are many helpful web sites and resources posted.

Take advantage of all the resources available and if possible, create additional resources and keep the support network growing.

Telling a partner you have Herpes - top

It may seem daunting, but the anticipation is much worse than the actual discussion. If the stats are that one in four people has herpes, chances are, your partner may have the same story to tell. And remember that it's a manageable disease, especially now with better medicines that can be taken daily to help suppress the virus at all times, and it is only a minor skin infection. While sometimes the response might seem less than supportive, in many cases, partners are both supportive and understanding.

But there's definitely a dichotomy. Do you want to divulge this fact to every partner right off the bat and risk immediate rejection, or should you be more discriminating, avoiding sexual encounters during outbreaks, then behave as if everything is perfectly normal at other times? As a new relationship develops and you grow to care deeply for someone and you've not discussed the issue, the risk becomes greater that you will transmit the disease to your unsuspecting partner. Over time, it will become harder and more awkward to talk about having herpes. And it's much more difficult to discuss herpes when your parter beomes infected.

The most important thing to remember is that genital herpes is extremely common. Accepting that you have herpes and that it is a common and manageable condition will go a long way to help keep a realistic and productive attitude. There may never be the "right" time, but it's probably best to be spontaneous and discuss it in a comfortable setting, though before things progress to a point where you're already in bed together.

Realistically, it may take a few dates with someone to know if you might continue seeing each other, and if there's a level of trust between you. Ideally, it's best to broach the subject wherever you feel most comfortable, perhaps at home over coffee or dinner, or during a walk outdoors where there's a level of privacy but also some comforting activity around you.

Be confident and compassionate. Yes, you have herpes, but no, it's not that big of a deal, though your partner will likely need some time to absorb the information. And they may have questions or concerns - and if so, be prepared to respond with facts and understanding. If you're upset or dramatic, it will likely create tension and anxiety, when it should be a factual, honest discussion between two adults.

One way to begin such a discussion could be, "I'm really enjoying our time together, and I'd like to share something with you about myself." Above all, avoid using negative words like "incurable," "horrible," "nasty," etc. This is a manageable disease and with care, you can discuss how you can both adapt to the situation.

It's helpful to practice with a friend that already knows you have herpes. A friend can play any number of roles (from understanding to freaked-out) to help you prepare and plan your approach. The more comfortable you are with the practice of discussing herpes, the easier it will be to talk about it with new people.

Once you've told a new partner about having herpes, they may need some time to absorb the information. Remember that you needed time to adjust to the news, too. If after discussing herpes your partner decides not to continue in the relationship, it's for the best, for both of you. And remember that their reaction is not a reflection on you. If nothing else, you may have helped educate them about herpes, and helped to eliminate the silence and stigma.

Though it's most likely that your partner listens, asks questions, and understands herpes for what it is - an irritating skin condition that you can both sucessfully manage. So keep your head up, keep perspective, be honest and straightforward, and focus on the positive. If everyone who has herpes speaks up with courage and confidence, together we can promote understanding and compassion. Relax, and go forth!

For more information or advice on sharing herpes with a partner, check out the sites in the Links section.

If you've had a successful (or not so successful) experience sharing herpes with a new partner, let us know how you handled it, the reaction from your partner and any suggestions you have for others.

How do I tell a partner?
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