Health : Living With Herpes

(This post was written by one of our member. If you wish to submit an article for discussion with other members, feel free to do so : blog @ )

“Hi.  I have HSV2 in my system.  Yes, Herpes.  I’m in my 50s and had it since my early 20s.  During college I had an outbreak every 10 weeks, during finals.  Now, outbreaks are very infrequent, only when I’m really stressed about something.  No outbreaks for several years.  Now, I’m getting an outbreak maybe once or twice max a year.  I honestly doubt I’ve spread it.  I’m told it can be spread even though there are no lesions.  My doctor says there is a risk when you feel an outbreak coming or just when after an outbreak heals.  The Valacyclovir doesn’t work during onset, which is when you are to start taking it.

Does anybody mention it to a potential sex partner when asked no STD’s?  I’ve mentioned it only to have it as a deal breaker.

I’ve read online (so much for reliable sources) that as much as 50% of gay men carry it.

I don’t know where I’m going with this but I would just like to commiserate with those with the same affliction.  Does this issue come up during sex negotiation?  Really bad for self esteem.  Does that mean I’m not “clean?”  IMO, herpes carries the same stigma or even more stigma than HIV.  Comments please.


There are 49 comments

Add yours
  1. Loveleo

    I am a medical Technologist and I am afraid that the stigma with Herpes is a difficult thing to deal with because it is one of the few diseases that even a condom does not protect you from getting. The viron is transmitted through sweat in some cases and it can be disfiguring. However, I don’t think anyone should be shun for a disease that any of us could acquire at any time. Just like with HIV you have to educate yourself and your partner….

    P.S those that matter don’t mind and those that mind don’t matter… MUAH

  2. mecocklover

    If you think that herpes carries “the same stigma or even more stigma” than HIV, then you really need to rethink your mindset. I’ll chalk that up to poor wording, but there are a lot of AIDS patients who wish they only had herpes instead of HIV.

    Assuming your stat of 50% of gay men being carriers is correct (and I’ve not ever seen that statistic or anything like it), that means that half are NOT herpes carriers. Of COURSE you mention it so that appropriate safety measures can be taken.

    Bear this in mind, also: If you are asked “do you have any STDs” and you lie by answering “no” and end up passing your infection on, not only is this unethical but it is also criminal in some states. Purposefully exposing someone to an incurable disease is considered a form of assault in several localities.

    The “I’m told” and “I’ve read on the internet” comments makes me wonder whether you’ve educated yourself (or kept up on the latest information) about your particular type of herpes. You need to KNOW (in big letters) how/when/under what circumstances you may be spreading the virus to other people.

  3. Segur

    I am HIV poz and have a hard time understanding how people can have indiscriminating non-monogomous sex. herpes are painful and rsther embarrasing. Choose a mate like yourself! Monogamy always rules! I am sexless because my status made me smarter about partnerships and diseases. DO same.

  4. Educate

    Agreed with above. It is something you may need to instantly tell your partner about. I have had to explain my hpv a few times and either dates still happen or we have to wait for a connection first. I’ve also had people say they’ve already read about it and understand. Date smarter people it helps.

  5. Dawn

    Well, you can wait until a cure is found or society drops the stigma. Unfortunately, the second doesn’t usually come until after the first has ooccurred.

  6. CB

    I know someone who dated a guy for a while. After a few months I got a text “I just told my bf I have herpes and he didn’t break up with me, yay!” My response was “you asshole, you should have told him before you slept with him!”
    I thought I had genital warts once (it turned out to be a skin tag) and I totally flipped, but I still told my bf at the time “uhh I might have a problem… That’s communicable…”
    Honesty and forthrightness make you a better person. If someone knowingly exposed me to VD without telling me I’d be pissed and prolly want to burn their house down. That said, in Alaska 1/3 of people have it, so the health centers don’t even bother testing for it.
    On the plus side, my STD nurse told me it’s extremely rare to have oral and genital at the same time.

  7. Ethan

    When I ask a sexual partner if he is clean I hope it covers anything that can spread, not just HIV/AIDS. I hope it is mentioned even if it is not asked.

  8. J

    I was diagnosed with HSV2 5+ years ago and have never had a single outbreak except for the very first initial one that made me go see a doctor. There are times I honestly forget I even have it because it’s only been the one time. (I don’t take medication either)

    I tell people I get involved with, very few have seemed to care. I was more bothered by it in the beginning than other people have been.

    I’ve had unprotected (and protected) oral and anal sex in those 5 years and no one that I’ve been with has contracted it. Sometimes I wonder if I should go get tested again to make sure I actually do have it.

    May sound stupid but I’ve been through serious stressful events in my life, gotten some grey hair ‘spots’ and everything from how stressed I’ve been and still haven’t had an outbreak. Just makes me wonder sometimes…

  9. herpster

    Gosh, just let it go. Everyone has Herpes virus, 1 or 2. Its not a big deal. They don’t even test it at clinics unless you ask them, cause doctors don’t consider herpes a serious condition. I have it and i don’t give a f…c. If i have sex, i use rub-no exceptions. H. doesn’t bother me at all. I have more probs with allergies and colds. A lot of people have it and they don’t know about it, cause H often comes with no symptoms or mild ones.

  10. DDENCO

    I have had herpes since 1986. I got it from the first guy I dated who was the first guy I had sex with. My experience has been that I would get outbreaks when having heavy stress or if I was physically sick. I believe the medicines are better now then they were in 1985 and I took Valtrex daily for about 12 years. Not one breakout during that time. My insurance changed and won’t pay for Valtrex so I’m on a daily dose of Acyclovir. I stay on a daily dose because my outbreaks got worse (more pain) as I aged.

    I agree that the stigma is bad. MY experience has been that some men are more willing to have safe sex with someone who is HIV+ than me. I’ve read the same statistics you’ve stated and also read that 90% of people with herpes do not know they have it. I have never had sex with anyone who was not aware of my herpes. I always disclose. ALWAYS. Funny, sometimes after I’ve had sex with someone they will admit their own herpes. Don’t understand why they didn’t disclose when I did, not that it matters at that point but makes me question their integrity.

    As for the quality of men, all the men I’ve been with have known and some of them have turned out to be jerks for other reasons. That’s just the way life is.

    I hate that I have herpes, almost none of my friends know, and I was horribly disappointed when the herpes vaccine trials failed a few years back. However, I do the best I can to manage it, and if anyone doesn’t want me because of it that is their choice and I move forward.

    Know your body, learn to read the signs of an outbreak before it happens, and always disclose. That’s my advice to you.

  11. Sam

    The irony is that, with both herpes and HIV, the people most likely to spread it are the one who don’t know they have it. So asking guys if they’re DDF and shunning them if they say no doesn’t protect you much and creates an incentive for guys to lie (or worse, not get tested)

  12. Kyle

    I must be a rather hard subject to deal with. I’d say that yes, you should disclose this as a potential std. While it may not be active in the moment it is possible you could transfer it and that must dictate…

  13. oninon

    As someone who has had herpes for most of my sexual history (albeit not as long as you’ve had yours), I’ve recently come to the conclusion that you have to own your HSV status. An article entitled, “The Perks of Herpes” on The Hairpin made me realize that disclosing your status, while certainly making you vulnerable, also makes your potential sexual partners vulnerable in a different way; use it to see what type of person he is. I recently added my status to my profile as an open discussion about sexual health in general. In addition, I can tell whose taken the time to read my whole profile and who doesn’t let it concern them. A hard but ultimately rewarding step.

  14. Osuneko

    I have Herpes Type 1, it shows up once or twice a year as a lip fever or cold sore, and only my friends have been supportive and not shun me. In one case, I was to meet with a guy I met here and after telling him I had just passed an outbreak( it had been a 2 weeks since which is the safe point to begin relationships without risk of infecting) he refused to kiss and really bullied me about it. Hence, I just abstain from talking about it and meeting people after outbreaks.

  15. You're Kidding

    I do so love how everyone is so smart and so wise … after the fact. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about the poster, but those making comments. Outside of a general lack of sympathy or empathy, I find it interesting that members of a social/sexual group known for being anything but careful or courteous of their sexual partners are insisting the poster educate himself better or not compare his illness to something considered worse, because it’s the social disease of the decade. Funny how the person blasting the poster for comparing herpes to HIV doesn’t bother to mention that, unlike herpes, HIV could have easily been eradicated by now, if people were as considerate as he suggest we all should be and stopped risky sex and/or wore condoms. Likewise, Segur blasts people for having indiscriminate, non-monogamous sex … are we to assume you got positive from having sex one time? That you got it despite practicing safe sex dictates and that you wore a condom all the time and/or didn’t let your partner near you without one? Or are you one of the rare survivors from the 60s and 70s, who got it before you knew what to do?

    I know it’s EXTREMELY politically incorrect to bash anyone with AIDS (sort of akin to using the N-word or suggesting that the political Left can be just as brutal or bullying as the Right in the U.S.); but I have a VERY big problem (in big letters MECOCKLOVER) with self-righteous people giving advice and condemning others, when they themselves usually contribute to the problem and then sit back, high-and-mighty and pass judgment.

    Try practicing what your saviour supposedly taught you: worry about the chunk of wood in your eye before trying to remove the splinter from your neighbor’s! Frankly, if we all had more self-respect for each other and ourselves and didn’t decide whether we were going to like someone based on their dick, AIDS would probably be long gone and most gay men would have relationships lasting more than 3 weeks.

    (Now attack me and say I’m a self-hater. LOL)







  17. howardangel

    STDs are easily transmissible especially for guys who like to have sex with multiple partners or anonymous people unless wearing protection from head to toes without exchanging spit or bare skin touching not mentioning rimming or felching. About herpes, if you’re sexually active and inclined to kiss a lot of guys eventually you will get it but it’s not as deadly like some other STDs. There’s no cure for it except management of the symptoms and shortening the duration of the outbreaks. Many guys have it and don’t know that yet since they are just carriers until some triggers happen in their lives for the actual outbreak to occur. It’s more common than other STDs but people still think they’re immuned to it and be judgemental to others who happen to have it. Tell a homo to be with one guy only (like that is going to work) or become a monk or priest to abstain from sex or touching another human being.

  18. Homohealth

    Here’s an article from

    Herpes can be a sore subject for many, but we’re sure that you’re itching to get the facts about it. Especially considering that 1 in 4 gay/bi men are known to have genital herpes, it’s important to know what it is, how to avoid it, and what you can do about it…

    Herpes refers to a class of viruses causing ailments like chicken pox, shingles, “mono” and cytomegalovirus. Say the word “herpes,” though, and most people think of the blisters that appear on mouth, nose and genitals following infection with two of the most common herpes viruses: Simplex I and Simplex II.

    One in four men are infected with herpes Simplex II, with approximately 20% of those infected reporting symptoms. The overwhelming majority did not know they had the virus. Much of what we’ve ever known about herpes has been changed in recent years. There is no cure for herpes. However, there are medications available to help reduce the length and severity of your outbreaks. Talk to your doctor about this option, or visit the STD clinic for some free advice.

    How do you avoid it?
    It is very difficult to avoid herpes. 90% of those who have been exposed to genital herpes do not ever have a recurrence or know that they are infected because the symptoms may be unnoticeable. Plus, herpes can be transmitted even if no sore is present. Here are some tips for helping to prevent transmission and to reduce your risk of getting herpes:

    People with genital herpes who are on anti-Herpes medication reduce their ability to transmit to others by 60%
    Condoms help prevent transmission because it is covering up part of your genital skin. It is estimated that condoms reduce risk by about 50%
    People are most contagious during outbreaks (however, transmission is possible even without an outbreak), so abstaining from genital-to-genital contact while an outbreak is present will also reduce risk
    During outbreak periods, you and your partner must use condoms for anal and oral sex any time you have active herpes lesions. Even this is not 100% effective since sores don’t usually limit themselves to your penis or ass
    If you have herpes you are most contagious at the beginning of an outbreak. That means that if you’re feeling symptoms of an approaching outbreak – itching, tingling around the site of infection, a flu-like malaise – you shouldn’t have sex. Remember, just because you may not have any visible sores, it is still possible to transmit herpes.

    It is also very difficult to identify who has viral shedding and where they are most contagious. 98% of those with genital herpes will have the infection somewhere between their waist and their thighs….but unless they have sore they cannot tell which part of their skin may shed the virus. Symptoms of herpes infection usually first appear anywhere from 2 to 20 days after exposure to the virus, although people can carry and transmit the virus for years without knowing that they are infected.

    During the initial outbreak, a few days (or even hours) before any lesions appear; you may feel an itching or tingling sensation around your penis and/or ass, with or without swollen glands. Painful sores then tend to erupt in clusters, usually around the head of the shaft of the penis, but can also appear on the area between the balls and ass, anus, or inside the rectum. They flare up in the throat in about 20% of people suffering from herpes. Touching the lesion can cause the infection to spread to your hands and thighs, and even to your eyes. You might also experience fever, muscle, aches, and other flu-like symptoms.

    These lesions may persist anywhere from 2 days to 7 weeks. Usually the pain increases over the first 6 to 7 days, reaching a peak between days 7 and 11. The first blisters start to dry up and scab over in about 4 to 15 days; new lesions, forming between days 4 and 10, appear more than 75 percent of the time.

    Subsequent outbreaks are usually much less severe than the primary infection, becoming less frequent over time. Some symptoms never recur, and again, the vast majority of Herpes Simplex-I and Herpes Simplex-II carriers never have sores that they notice.

    Testing and treatment?
    The only way to test is to have a blood test. Three doctor prescribed antiviral medications – acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir – are currently available to lessen the severity and length of the outbreak and to prevent new lesions from forming, but cannot cure a herpes infection. Taking daily treatments reduces your ability to transmit herpes by 60% and might reduce the chances of getting HIV. You can get tested by a doctor or at the STD clinic.

    There are some things you can do on your own to alleviate pain and itching. First of all, avoid over-the-counter anti-itch medications; most contain hydrocortisone, which interferes with healing. Take acetaminophen or aspirin for general pain. Sores will heal faster if you take warm baths with baking soda three to five times a day and keep them clean and dry be wearing loose-fitting cotton boxers, or no underwear at all. You might try a blow dryer (on the lowest setting) on your sores after you get out of the tub to make sure they’re fully dry, and sprinkle a little cornstarch or baking soda on them to keep moisture away.

    HIV connection?

    If you’re HIV negative and have herpes, you may be at five times greater risk of contracting HIV, even if you’re not having an outbreak.
    If you’re HIV positive, symptoms can be more severe and outbreaks more frequent, especially in the advance stages of HIV infection. Problems can occur when recurring sores last more than a month, and with herpes-associated inflammation of the eyes (herpetic keratitis). Check with your medical provider about the benefits of antiviral drugs that may prevent and treat herpes outbreak
    .If you are HIV positive, the HIV virus is highly concentrated in the genital area and may make it easier for you to transmit HIV to your sexual partners, with or without a visible herpes outbreak (herpes and HIV have a biological relationship that may be independent of outbreaks).
    Blister in the Sun

    I think I first noticed the tingling sensation about three days before it happened. I just figured my cockhead was a little sensitive – perhaps from too much jerking off or something. But then it started to itch. I thought I’d wait a couple of days to see if it passed. Then I got really sick.

    It could’ve been the flu, it felt just like any other time I’ve been sick. I felt feverish, slightly nauseous, queasy, and tired. I took a few days off of work until I felt better – and that’s when I noticed the sores. It fucking hurt like hell, all around my penis there were itchy little blisters. I pretty much freaked out. Not entirely sure what was wrong with me, I went to the doctor and found out I had genital herpes.

    I have a good doctor, and I’ve always been open with him about my sex life. I get tested on a regular basis, and a few years ago he treated me for chlamydia. But I was still embarrassed. Chlamydia didn’t seem like such a big deal, but this was different. He told me that now that I had herpes, I would have them for the rest of my life because there was no cure. I wouldn’t always have the sores, but they would flare up on occasion whenever I had an outbreak (which could be anywhere from several times a year to once a year) and always in the same place. He said that herpes enter your body at the nerve endings where the infection occurs. Then the virus travels down that nerve to the other end in your spine, and that’s where it lives. Every once in awhile, especially during stressful times, they’ll flare up and go back up that nerve to the skin and bam! – more blisters.

    I felt terrible – I couldn’t imagine having to go through this shit over and over again. My doc recommended I also get tested again for HIV and other STDs, as having herpes makes it easier for you to catch other stuff. I was wracking my brain, trying to figure out where (or I should say who) I could’ve got it from. It had been a couple of weeks, maybe even months, since I had sex with anyone. There was one guy I hooked up with off of the internet, but we just swapped blowjobs and jerked each other off. I hadn’t fucked anyone in a long time, and I’m always safe.

    My doc said that there are two kinds of herpes – simplex 1 and simplex 2. Simplex 1 usually affects the mouth and 2 effects the genital area. They can be spread from just coming into contact with an infected area, whether there are blisters there or not. Because it’s transmitted from skin-to-skin contact, and not cum, condoms will protect the area they cover but not around it. About 50% of gay men have herpes. He also said that you can have herpes for a long time without ever getting an outbreak, so I guess who knows who I actually got it from or when it happened. The point is that it did and now I know.

    While there is no cure for herpes, you can treat it. He prescribed an antiviral medication called Acyclovir. He said I can take it when I feel an outbreak coming on (when the tingling sensation starts up again) to make it less severe, or I can take it daily to lessen the possibility that I will have outbreaks, although this is still experimental and only used on folks with HSV-2, not oral herpes. This made me feel a little bit better as I was suddenly wondering whether I would ever be able to have sex again. The last thing I want is to give herpes to somebody else, but the realization slowly sank in that this is something I’m going to have to tell every potential sex partner about. Not fun. I realized I should probably tell past sex partners about it. Even more not fun.

    So, that’s my story. I’m living with herpes. I take the medication. I’m still able to have sex, but I have been rejected by people because of it. It sucks, but at least I’m being honest. I’ve had no problem dating or fucking around (still using condoms) with other people that have herpes, so that’s good.

  19. Hotgguy2010

    Well I’m 22 and last year I found out I have type 1 and type 2 herpes. It was just a normal check up all across the board std test. I use condoms and asked all the guys I was with if they where clean or std free. This changed my life but after a while of sadness and tell all my past partners I’m ok. I tell all the people that want to hook up that I have herpes what I learned is this

    Most people are not aware of stds and how they can get them. It’s sad but true I inform them and let them make a choice. If I feel like they are just wanting a f*** no matter I start to question how make ppl have they been with that had something. Just cuz I have this does not mean that my life is over I still protect my self and others. With Daily pills and safe sex I’m doing well I still haven’t notice a outbreaks and am bless for that.

    I hope this helps. If you have a std it’s not the end of the world also don’t take it out on others please be open and let your sexual partners know and for those who are afraid to ask don’t be.

  20. Enlighten Them

    Herpes Simplex 1 and 2 can be stigmatized similar to HIV. You may not agree but it is true. You are basically seen as a leper or plagued. You’ll also find that Herpes is always mocked in television and movies as well as various other reality media.

    Asymptomatic Shedding is how the virus is transferred without any lesions being present, so Mecocklover could be a carrier of the virus and not even know it. In many cases that is how the disease is spread, because people simply aren’t aware that they have it.

    Who the hell would want to have sex with painful lesions on their body, genitals or mouth? Yes, you can have outbreaks on other parts of your body but the mouth and genitals are the most prevalent.

    Most people living with Herpes live sexless lives, and it is devastating for many because it’s such a taboo subject to discuss. It’s a disease of ridicule and there isn’t much hope to cure it since it encodes itself into your DNA.

    When people tell you they have a cold sore or “fever blister” that is Herpes Simplex 1. People will get it from sharing utensils, cups, and even a kiss without knowing it. These same people could gives you Simplex 2 if you were to have sex with them.

    Kevin, all you can do is know your body and if you’re going to have sex with someone know that they are willing to hear you. In most cases people won’t even give you the opportunity because of how stigmatized the disease is. The population at large is infected with Herpes in a much higher percentage than people realize.

  21. dan

    It’s irrelevant how severe a disease is. If you have one, tell your partner or anyone you can potentially infect. People with communicable diseases that don’t tell others are simply put, predators. With stds they are sex predators very much like molesters/rapists.
    If you have a disease it’s your responsibility to not spread it. Placing blame on others that are not infected is only making you look like the bad person that you really are. The other person can take all the necessary precautions to avoiding infection but the infected person is the one that needs to be honest.
    If you have to live a lonely life without sexual partners because you have an STD, then it is something you will have to deal with. Buy a fleshlight or a dildo if you need to satisfy your urges. It really is not that hard to do the right thing. Don’t be evil by spreading infections around.

  22. Jay

    Its not 50% of people, its 1/4. 20% of the population has HSVII. That includes 20% gay men. Its fairly common. Some people never have a single outbreak but spread the disease around like wildfire. While others, such as yourself, have outbreaks. It all depends on your immune system. Still, Herpes sucks but its nowhere close to being as bad as HIV. Herpes is a annoying, but it cant kill you. HIV, if not taken care of, can definitely kill you. If you have slept with over 6 people, you have likely come in contact with the virus and have been lucky enough not to catch it. For most people, it just hides out in their system not doing anything. For others, they get outbreaks

  23. Bil

    I love how gay guys get all self righteous about STD’s (other commenters). If i were to judge how many gay guys have STD’s by the number of internet postings that say drug and disease free, I’d think that over 98% of you were all “clean!” We all know it’s total bullshit. Most of us that have slept around have something. Most of us just don’t know it. Guys go in to get an HIV test and just because that comes out negative, they claim that they are “disease-free.” Well, think again- syphilis is rampant, there is no test for HPV (and most have never shown symptoms), and many have Herpes and are also symptom-less. Quit being judgemental. If you’ve sucked on more than a few dicks, you probably carry something, so quit bitching about other guys and their sex practices as if they’re dirty and you’re not.

  24. wwworl4us

    We deserve what we got since for year we been around and still doing what ever we what who ever we want and now more likely drugs and unprotected sex.

  25. KRE

    I do not like to kiss someone I do not know due to the Herpes Virus.
    I will light a cigarette to avoid a kiss from a stranger.
    It is just not enjoyable knowing I may have problems the rest of my life due to a simple kiss.
    That’s life. Clean to me is showered and smelling like nothing. Having a virus does not make you dirty.
    It means you have a virus that can be dormant or active.
    I have the right to protect my self from discomfort in life.

  26. Sunnysideup

    If I understand HSV2 correctly, it is usually located wherever that person has their first outbreak. Meaning that would be that area/place/region that could potentially infect another person.

    @Loveleo, wow I did not know that it could be transmitted through sweat. That’s crazy! Just think about all the sports players that come into contact with one another. Or am I getting carried away?

  27. Blerg

    Why do gay men seem to be the judgmental, non sympathetic, and condescending groups of people which I know 🙁
    I believe Kevin meant that the stigma associated with herpes is similar to HIV in the sense that it is entirely undesirable BECAUSE of it’s in curable nature. Confusion can be frustrating but be respectful about it.

    And the comment about being monogamous was completely unnecessary (along with mecocklover). And did not help the discussion.

    Kevin was looking for some input about living with herpes and some people are more interested in belittling and chastising him. Show him support and RESPECTFULLY give an opinion, please. If you don’t have herpes, you don’t know what it’s like.; Show some empathy and put yourself in his shoes.

    And with that! I thought I had herpes for a couple of months and in those months I went through a severe depression. I was sad and ashamed to say the least and I wondered how my romantic life would continue. But after I came to terms, I told myself that I’d be honest to the people with whom I’d be intimate. I definitely wasn’t going to start my dates with “Nice to meet you! I HAVE HERPES!” But I wasn’t not going to tell them (as embarrassing as I found it)

    After all of this, I ended up seeing the doctor and he told me I had a non serious skin infection. But I definitely now have an understanding.

    But it got me thinking: how many of you would date a guy that told you initially that he had herpes?
    Another question: would you continue to date somebody you like very much (but didn’t have sex) after they told you they had herpes?

  28. nNano

    Hm. As this piece is titled “Living with Herpes” an appears in the Health blog section of A4A, I expected I was going to read an actual article written by a health professional. I appreciate the info – especially since I just met with a guy who honestly shared his status when I asked – but, this really is more of a forum post. Can anyone share authoritative information, or at least a link to same? (Google works, too, but I thought we could have the best links right here.) Thanks!

  29. J.D.

    I don’t see it as a deal breaker. I guess I would like to know about it before I get under the sheets with you, but to me…in my mind, it doesn’t have the same weight as HIV.
    Let me know when and where and we can go at it 😉

  30. ImWithYou

    According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “In the United States, about one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes.” (

    According to, “1 in 4 gay/bi men are known to have genital herpes.” (

    I automatically assume that any man I hook up with from this site or any other has one STD or the other. Anyone who doesn’t is naive.

  31. Chip

    Whoa! This one raised a lot of red flags for me, and I’ve spent a bit of time composing this reply…

    First, the writing of this post doesn’t match up with what I’d expect from a 50 y/o Herpes sufferer who has lived with the disease for more than 2 decades. There are several “clues” (like a lot of bad information), and I’d hazard a guess that there’s something significant missing (or incorrect) in the general depiction there.

    That being said, I’m pretty sure there is no requirement that all of the details be true and accurate in order to pose a legitimate question here, and again, there was a LOT of misinformation in there, so here goes.

    First: the statistic that HALF of all gay men have herpes is ridiculous, even if you’re counting both oral and genital herpes.

    But let’s not get ahead of ourselves… Since this is going to be an educational post on my part, let me start with some definitions:
    – HSV (herpes simplex virus) comes in 2 types (1 and 2). Type 1 is most commonly oral (e.g.: cold sores), where type 2 is most commonly genital (what “Kevin” posted about). These infected locations are not exclusive, just common. So, you CAN have either or both types of HSV in either or BOTH locations.
    – HSV is NOT the same virus as HPV or HIV. HSV has neither a cure nor a vaccine, and there are no reliable medications to combat it (though there are some that have shown some effectiveness at shortening outbreaks).
    – An HSV “outbreak” consists of sores that can be somewhat painful in either the mouth or genital area. HSV actually attacks the NERVOUS system in the affected areas, not the flesh itself.
    – HSV is not fatal, but can complicate other infections and diseases — especially HIV.
    – You can definitely have both types of HSV, but usually one (the first one) is dominant because an immune-healthy person will develop antibodies that will help fight a new infection of the other type.
    – HSV is not exclusively an STD! You can get oral herpes by kissing your Aunt while she has a cold sore (no tongue implied there!), and you can get genital herpes without there ever being penile penetration of either oral or anal kinds!
    – If you have HSV, you are nearly always “shedding” virus from the affected area. However, your contagiousness is usually minimal except for about a week before and after an outbreak.
    – The problem there is that outbreaks don’t have “early signs”, nor do they send you a postcard announcing their impending arrival. So you really never know when one is coming, and thus you really cannot tell when you’re more contagious or not.
    – Transmission is skin-to-skin, not through oral or anal membranes… so you can get it from just rubbing up against each other in the affected areas. Especially if the transmitting partner is particularly contagious (like in the midst of a breakout). So getting a blowjob from someone with active cold sores can get you a case of GENITAL herpes, even though they suffer from ORAL herpes.
    – Different populations have different infection rates — but since many people who are infected have a sufficient immune response to avoid visible outbreaks, they remain unaware (sometimes throughout their entire lives) that they are infected. But the idea that 50% of gay men are HSV2 infected is ludicrous. Curiously, this is an STD that straights are more prone to than gays. (Overall male infections in North America in 2010 were only 11%, while females were 23%).
    – The longer you’ve been infected, the less common your outbreaks will likely become, and the less contagious you become. (Generally speaking — your mileage may vary!)
    – Other than staying clothed, there are no real “preventive measures” (like condoms are for HIV) that are routinely and directly effective at preventing the spread of HSV between sexual (naked) partners.

    OK, so you’re probably scared out of your wits about now… but relax, HSV is common, if un-treatable… but it is primarily an annoyance (routine cold sores for the oral kind, and occasional genital sores for the genital kind). Painful during an outbreak? yes. Embarrassing? yes. Fatal? no.

    But there are some other facts that you should probably know because you’re a gay/bisexual man who has gay sex:

    If you are HSV positive, your sexual partners SHOULD be told… BEFORE you get naked, not after the first few times!

    Again: condoms do NOT prevent the spread of HSV (a less than 30% effectiveness)! But most importantly, a new HSV infection could become a MAJOR issue for an HIV+ person… and we all know that not everyone on A4A is honest about their HIV status.

    So if you are HSV+ and don’t disclose, and your new partner is HIV+ and didn’t disclose, you could be severely endangering his health — even if you wear condoms!

  32. joe

    Herpes is common their 8 types total, including shingles. Many people have HSV 1 which is the type found up stairs, HSV 2 is found down stairs. Though you can get either at any location. Often having it at its preferred site will lead to more breakouts then the other, meaning you get HSV 1 downstairs will lead to less break outs. Data suggest that 90% of people have been in contact with the HSV virus and most likely would show positive on a test ( because they search antibodies) does not mean however they have it. there definitely is a stigma with HSV anywhere but the lip. I know people who have had it since childhood, they wed have a family, never passed it to the spouse. Then you get it downstairs and its a creepy evil beast…its actually the same.. Recent research has come out with some finds on HSV that shakes what they originally thought, they use to think it hid and would come back, but now research shows its always present but the bodies fighting it ( antibodies slips) and you get a break out. This suggest the importance of eating healthy and staying healthy to keep the body optimal to fighting it off. Should you tell people yes, its the ethical thing to do, but lean in to it, first, they need to know how you got it, so tell em you got it from great aunt Sue who kissed you as a kid, second they do not need to know where you have it unless you choose to disclose that information. I also think looking for a partner not a hook up will prolly make that process easier as well.

  33. Randy

    As a precaution out of care for my past sexual partners, I was tested for HSV-2 in May 2010. The blood test came back positive, and I called all of the partners I had in the past 12 months. I was so confused because I was not having outbreaks.

    The doctors I went to were confident that I had HSV-2 even without outbreaks, but 4 months after my diagnosis, I was starting to have serious doubts. As it turns out, my doctors were wrong and my doubts were right, as I went along seeking a more conclusive result that the doctors just weren’t giving me. It turns out the blood test was prone to cross-contamination, meaning if you had HSV-1, it was a chance HSV-2 would come up positive as well even if you only had HSV-1.

    During these 4 months, I got to experience the terrible stigma that comes with having this disease without even having it. I decided to do the smart thing, and that was to be open and honest about it. As a result, a lot of guys would stop talking to me, even friendships were destroyed as a result, which in turn made me so incredibly depressed and lost that I could not even take any pleasure in discovering the good news that I actually did not have it.

    This entire experience changed me as a person, and it ironically might have been one of the most necessary experiences for me, as it made me better understand and feel for those who have lifelong sexually transmitted infections such as HSV-2 and HIV.

  34. Doug

    No, herpes most certainly does not carry the same stigma as HIV. For one thing, it has never been fatal, and for another, it’s not necessarily spread through what prudish people would consider “shameful” sexual activities. Some people are even born with the cold-sore variety, passed on by mom via transit through the birth canal. Happy mother’s day, by the way…

  35. Safe than Sorry

    You’re Kidding,
    I totally agree with you. As a 35 year old Black male, I take my HIV/STD free (tested every three months) status seriously! After the fact reflection is wonderful, but how about “before the fact” reflection to stop getting it in the first place! Every gay man loves sex, but rampant anonymity is a danger to all. How about getting to know the person a little bit before a suck or fuck. I honestly believe that most people are good if you give them a chance to be. It is easier to be bad when you don’t know the person or perceive that the potential fuck does not care.

  36. AHernandez

    if you protect yourself in the first place u wouldn’t have to worry about unknowingly spreading anything . anytime I have that urge with whomever, I always give them the run down . a smart/mature person will understand and have more respect based on the honesty and consideration displayed , or a ignorant/immature individual will not really want to discuss the topic because they’re intimidated . they know that they’ve probably put themselves at risk beforehand and don’t really know if they’re clean or not so they would tend to change the subject or remain neutral . there are a lot of hypocrites in denial, knowing they have something but won’t do anything about it . when the subject is discussed they will “act” so reassured and well grounded about the situation but ASK QUESTIONS, ALL OF THEM .. a person who seems knowledgeable about the topic at hand should not be intimidated by ANY questions asked ..

  37. kevintheposter

    I am the poster on this blog. Imagine how I felt when just the second comment from Mecocklover came in which was harsh, presumptive, scolding, parental, insinuated that I did not know what I was talking about, and sprinkled with cap locks. I do not need to rethink my mindset. My wording was thought out. Please note the parenthesized disqualifier “so much for reliable sources.” Add the words ‘lie,’ ‘assault,’ ‘unethical’, and ‘criminal’ in the comment to top things off. Thanks, I feel much better. Easy to slag people off online. I trust you are squeaky clean. I expected to hear things that I did not necessarily wanted to hear but , wow thats extreme. I assume you’re squeaky clean and have sex thru a garbage bag.

    Chip, your second paragraph didn’t help either. Expectations from a 50 yr old?

    Dan, I am not evil and I have a fleshlight.

    The percentages in this blog are all over the board.

    Thanks so very much Blerg. You hit the nail on the head. Ditto to Your’re Kidding.

    I appreciate the ones who were supportive and/or shared their experiences.

    I hate that I have herpes.

  38. sjohnson

    if you have disease stick with your kind instead of SPREAD
    ING the shit around. if clean stick with your own kind and if mated….don’t F
    FUCK around–just asking for trouble

  39. NeverShowedSymptoms

    I have had HSV2 for either a long time, or a short time, I don’t know because I’ve never shown symptoms. Might have happened decades ago, and I was an unwitting spreader. Or, maybe it was the last guy that did me. Or I did. I’ll never really know.

    I do know that I was stupid not to get it checked. Never came up. HIV-, and otherwise STD-free, I was checked for lots of stuff and everything was always negative, until just recently. Now I have to tell my partners. I can’t go around a relative who’s immune-system compromised. It would ravage him. So, not even shaking hands. It’s improbable that just that contact could do it, but he’s on immune system suppressants and infections drive him nuts. This one can’t be cured. So, goddammit, I can’t shake his hand.

    That said, I’ll continue to have the cautious sex life I had before. I’m working against not contracting HIV and others. I check the equipment of my partners. I use condoms unless I’m 100% positive that my partner is free– and I know the written results of only one partner, so that’s as condom-free as I go. Wish it weren’t so. Not gonna do anon, because I could be a spreader. I probably got it on an anon contact that I thought was otherwise safe.

    No symptoms. But I have it. Now I know. Now you know: go get effing tested so you can be sure you’re not going to damage someone unwittingly. If you’re assured, and both consent, go for it. But uninformed consent is a lie. You and he care, or you don’t. Don’t be a spreader. Get tested. Ask and offer if you’re HSV2-poz. I am.

  40. Drew

    So, will bathing immediately after sex—the proverbial “whore bath”—and focusing on the “action areas” mitigate possible exposure to Herpes? A public health guy in Florida told me that last year, and I do it religiously now.

  41. victor

    i was raped when i was 13 and thats how i got herpes i feel like it ruined my teenage life. its always made me feel dirty and used

  42. AJ

    The stats are 1 in 3 men are infected with HSV 1 or 2 and 1 in 5 women, when you add those you get 2 in 4 which is, essentially, 1/2 of the population has 1 form of HSV or the other. There is a terrible stigma that is associated with having herpes and it’s quite possibly why the stats are so high. I was infected by a girl who just didn’t tell me she had it. Had she told me she had it it would not have changed the way I felt, I would have done my research and asked her to be honest with me about her outbreaks.

    I’ve never had one person judge me for having it in the straight community, but in the gay/bi community it is very much frowned upon. I’m not sure what the difference is between the two, besides the obvious, but it is very strange the way they are perceived in both communities.

    In my experience in having HSV2 I have told people that if I had to get HSV 1 or 2 I would choose 2 simply based off the fact that if I have an outbreak no one will see it…ever. If I have HSV 1 and have an outbreak, everyone sees it and everyone knows what it is..take Tim Tebow doing a news conference with a massive outbreak on his lip for example. Anyone watching ESPN for 24-48 hours after that interview so that glowing herpe chilling on his lip, but no one questioned it.

    Here’s a fact about HSV that some, or most, don’t know. HSV 1 isn’t limited to the mouth and HSV 2 isn’t limited to the genital area. They both can be in both places so assuming that someone with a lip outbreak only has HSV 1 is wrong.

    Where is this going? I have no fucking clue, but I will leave by saying that a person that is positive for HSV 1 or 2 should not be judged as “dirty” or “unclean” because most of us that do have it have it because an infected person did NOT tell us they were infected and decided to have sex with us during an outbreak and passed it on. So if you are one of the 50% that has it just communicate it with a potential partner and if they say they don’t want to hook up then move on…simple.

  43. Tom

    I think this one of the few times where you can appreciate being gay. Herpes can be lethal to babies so having children gets an extra degree of complexity.

  44. CT

    I’ve had HSV2 for 5 years. Found out about it just after things got serious with my then-boyfriend. He was ok with it and after 4 years of monogamy without using protection or medication, he never contracted it.

    I’ve never had any symptoms. If not for the medical report, I would have zero indication I have it. Functionally, this disease has had absolutely zero impact on my life. So far, the only impact appears to be that I would need to disclose this non-manifested skin condition to any potential sexual partners.

    The most common stat I’ve seen has been that 1 in 6 (~20%) adults carry HSV2. A very high percentage of adults (80%) carry HSV1 and either type can theoretically manifest as genital herpes.

    To say that 20% of adults carry HSV2 is not the same as saying 20% of gay men carry HSV2, since the demographics of gay men are by definition different from that of the larger population. Most studies I’ve seen have extrapolated the incidence among gay men. Such surveys are expensive and so it hasn’t been studied directly. All numbers I’ve seen, however, indicate that incidence among gay men is higher than among the general population, i.e. higher than 20%. I’ve seen the 50% statistic quoted in several sources, though I’m not familiar with how they arrived at that number. It does seem inflated to me.

    Also note that of those that DO carry HSV2, the vast majority are unaware that they carry it. As other posters have noted, many doctors do not consider HSV to be a serious condition and thus do not include it in a standard battery of STD tests. I would wager that many of the posters in this thread are actually unaware of their HSV status.

    HSV is nowhere near the level of seriousness of HIV. The latter compromises the immune system. Lethally. The former manifests as a skin ailment. Superficially. Risks to immuno-compromised individuals have been noted above.

    In my experience, however, the level of stigma for HSV is very similar to that of HIV. The latter is a disease that’s struck a tragic blow to the gay community and snatched away millions of people far too early. HIV-positive people deserve our support. The former is a disease for sluts and stupid people, something that’s a frat-humor punchline. HSV-positive people deserve our ridicule and shame. How many gay men crack HSV jokes and how many crack HIV jokes?

    In the oft-lamented superficial partnering game that makes up the gay dating world, where we’re presented with page after page of icons/options, we’ve grown accustomed to being intensely selective, to disqualifying people out of hand for whatever attribute. I don’t believe for a second you’ll find any substantial population of gay men who would be “ok” sleeping with an HSV+ man but not an HIV+ man. As I said above, the STAKES of these two diseases are seen (correctly) as radically different. The RISKS of these two diseases, however, are seen as substantially the same – an incurable disease is an incurable disease to most men. Thus, I believe, the stigma of HSV approaches that of HIV.

    To the original poster – I haven’t had to “fight the good fight” as long as you. The ethical thing to do is tell potential partners. Yes, you’ll get turned down. Yes, they’ll find numerous ways to justify that decision in their minds. That’s their right, fair or not. Your life in the casual sex world has probably been kicked way way down, even though all these other HSV+ posters who don’t know their statuses are able to keep frolicking. It’s unfair, lament it, and move on. Not everyone will have a problem with it, but they’ll be few and far between.

    You’ll have to weed through a lot more guys looking for Mr Right. You’ll end up with the adventurous types, the risk-takers, the ones who you know will stick with you “in sickness and in health”, who can look past your flaws and say that you as a person are worth keeping over whatever skin conditions you bring with you. In that sense, HSV can be a plus – the game-players by and large won’t risk it. I suspect this will catch some flack: “I’m not a shallow or bad person, just because I care about my health,” they’ll protest. If they can’t risk a skin condition for you, though, do you really want to count on them when something ACTUALLY serious comes up? Let them have their relationships with the unspoken fine-print caveats (*”except if you get a contagious disease, then all bets are off.”)

    It’s not hopeless, it’s just more work. You’ll be okay.

Post a new comment

Like us to stay in touch with latests posts!