Friday, November 18, 2011

I just got informed that I have HSV and I'm devastated

Dear DWH:

I just got informed that I have HSV and I'm devastated. I feel like it's over. I see all the stories about people being in commited relationships… but what if you are not? How do you tell the people you casually slept with before you knew you had it? I feel like it is the end of the world. If you have any good tips please let me know. I can't take this.

Heartbroken

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Dear Heartbroken:

It's very normal to feel the way you do right after finding out that you have genital herpes. But remember - this is the worst of it, and you will feel better after some time has passed and after you learn the real facts about genital herpes. Here's what you should do right away:

#1: Get Support Immediately! There are a number of support resources for people with herpes, both regional and national. Call the National Herpes Hotline, and join a regional or national herpes support or social group, and TALK TO PEOPLE who already have this and have been living and dating with it for a while and know what you have been going through. You will feel so much better after talking to people who are in the same boat and know more than you about what you can do.

National Herpes Hotline: 919-361-8488

Picking Up the Pieces Yahoo Group – Online Support for HSV and HPV
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/PickingUpThePieces/


Join your local regional herpes social or support group. Listing can be found at http://www.datingwithherpes.org/herpessocialandherpessupportgroups/

#2: Get educated about the real facts about genital herpes! Herpes is extremely common and very manageable. There are lots of things that you can do to reduce the frequency and intensity of any symptoms, and things you can do to dramatically reduce your risk of spreading it to your partner(s). A lot of this information is available at DatingWithHerpes.org - http://www.datingwithherpes.org. Read through all of the information on this site, and then check out the Links section and go to other websites for even more information.

http://www.datingwithherpes.org

#3: Don't buy into the stigma. You are not a bad person or a dirty person just because you have genital herpes. About 25% of adults in the US have genital herpes. That's tens of millions of people. You are not alone! The fact is, however, that most doctors don't include the test for herpes even when they are testing patients for other common STD's. And since most people who have genital herpes have no noticeable symptoms, or their symptoms are mild and infrequent, they honestly *think* they are *clean*, even when that's not the case. Even without symptoms, herpes can be passed between partners. There are millions of people out there who have herpes and don't know it,  who are having casual sex, and not using protection, and who are putting themselves and their partners at risk for acquiring one or more STD's. You are no better nor worse than other people just because you have genital herpes. And maybe now, you'll have the chance to help educate others about this very common virus that they may already have and not even know it.

Lastly, for tips for "Telling Someone" that you have genital herpes, including how to notify previous partners that they might have been exposed to herpes, go to:
http://www.datingwithherpes.org/tellingsomeone/

Good luck!

DWH

Monday, September 12, 2011

Do I have to take the same precautions if I have HSV1?

Dear DWH:

I contracted genital herpes, got tested and found out it was from the HSV1 virus. I’m confused about a lot of things. I’ve read a lot about how HSV1 can be passed from oral to genital contact, but not a lot about how likely it is to be passed genital to genital. Now that I have HSV1 genital herpes, do I have to take the same precautions as someone with HSV2? If someone already has HSV1 in their mouth, could sex with me cause them to have a genital outbreak? Although I’ve never had a cold sore, could I pass the HSV1 to someone by kissing them? By giving them oral sex? If they give me oral sex, will they get oral HSV1? Since my first outbreak (which was very severe) I have never had another one. Also I am female. Do these things make it less likely that I will pass on the virus? My first outbreak was a terrible experience, and I do not want to cause anyone else to go through that, but I’m also not sure if I’m being overly cautious.

HSV1 Girl

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Dear HSV1 Girl:

That’s a lot of questions!  Here’s my best attempt to help you out.

- Many people have HSV1 genitally.  HSV1 can be passed to another via either genital or oral sex, just like HSV2.

- Yes, you will have to take the same precautions against spreading HSV1 just as you would with HSV2.

- 60-80% of the general population already have HSV1 orally.  Most people don’t realize that cold sores are the same thing as herpes (HSV1).  Most people don’t realize that it’s possible to spread HSV1 to another person via oral sex, even when they don’t have a visible cold sore.  A lot of people think oral sex is safe, and don’t use any sort of protection.  But anytime you are swapping body fluids, there is a risk of spreading something.

- Sorry you had a terrible first herpes outbreak.  Herpes affects each person differently based on a number of variables such as your own immune system, etc.   Most people with herpes don’t even know it because their symptoms are not noticeable, or are very mild and infrequent, and are mistaken for something else.  Other people get outbreaks all the time.  Some people have 1 outbreak and then never again.  Some people have symptoms only a few times a  year.  Even when someone is not having any symptoms, it is still possible for them to spread herpes to their partner because the virus can be shedding from the surface of the skin without causing any sores or symptoms.

- The only way to know for sure how often a person is shedding the virus without symptoms is to take part in a research study where your skin is swabbed on a daily basis and then tested for evidence of the virus.  In one study, the subjects tested positive for the virus on up to 10% of days, even when they had no symptoms.  But even in that study, each person was different.  Some people shed more often, and some people shed less often.   So each person is different.

- The good news is that by using Suppressive Therapy – taking daily Acyclovir or Valacyclovir – you can dramatically reduce the number of days of asymptomatic shedding.  In one research study, patients who took suppressive therapy shed the herpes virus only a fraction of a percent of the time.  So combining suppressive therapy with proper and regular use of condoms is a very effective way to reduce your risk of spreading the virus to someone else genitally.  If you use dental dams, then oral sex is safer too.

- Bottom line – HSV1 and HSV2 cause pretty much the same symptoms and one is not better or worse type of herpes than the other.  Both types of herpes can cause outbreaks either orally or in the genital region, or even on the buttocks, back or thighs.  The treatment options are the same.  The methods of reducing your risk of spreading it are the same.  However, everyone is different and may experience (or not experience) symptoms differently.  Most people with HSV1 and/or HSV2 got it from someone who wasn’t experiencing symptoms at the time, didn’t know they could spread it, and may not have even known that they had any form of herpes.

Now that you know that you have herpes, you can take precautions to reduce your risk of spreading it and by doing that, you’re a safer sex partner than most other people out there who have herpes and don’t know it and who are not taking suppressive therapy or using any protection.  Good luck!

DWH

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How Long Should I Wait Before Taking a Herpes Blood Test?

Dear DWH:

I may very well have been exposed to a girl with genital herpes and now I have a rash on my penis. My urologist (who doesn’t seem to know a lot about herpes) thinks I only have a fungal infection, but gave me a lab form for herpes blood tests anyway. My question to you is: How many weeks after my 1st outbreak should I wait to make sure I’ve built up enough herpes antibodies, to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that I really do or do not have herpes?

Waiting

Dear Waiting:

Many doctors incorrectly diagnose herpes as a fungal infection, jock itch, ingrown hairs, friction, yeast infection, or any number of other things. This is extremely common, and very frustrating!

It takes about 12-16 WEEKS after you were first exposed to herpes in order to give the virus enough time to show up in your blood stream. Otherwise the test results may not be accurate and you might get a "false negative" result. If you take a blood test now, and the result is positive, then it is possible that you were already infected with the HSV2 virus BEFORE your encounter with this last person.

Statistics show that at least 25% of all US adults have the HSV2 virus, but most of them DON'T EVEN KNOW IT. This is because most people have mild, infrequent or even NO symptoms. And most doctors don't routinely give blood tests for herpes even when they are testing you for other STD's - unless you SPECIFICALLY request a herpes blood test. So most people have never been tested for herpes! Some people who become infected with herpes don't have their first outbreak until YEARS after they were first infected. So unless you had a negative herpes blood test prior to meeting this last person, you'll never really know if you got herpes from HER, or someone else BEFORE her. It is possible to spread herpes even when there are no symptoms. Just think - one in every four of your previous sexual partners had genital herpes and probably didn't know it! Safe Sex is always the best policy.

According to Dr. Gary A. Richwald, the Medical Advisor to LA HELP, as long as your doctor has ordered one of the GOOD herpes blood tests (such as the dual HerpeSelect 1 & 2), then the antibody test can be positive as early as 3 weeks after lesions appear. (But if the result is negative, it just might be too early to know.) After 16 weeks (four months), the vast majority of folks will have a positive test if infected. Doctors should order a test at the beginning (because some individuals are already asymptomatically infected from a previous exposure) and repeat the test at 3-4 months.

It's very important to find out the Name and Manufacturer of the test your doctor is using and make sure it is one of the NEW, GOOD herpes blood tests which are very accurate. Unfortunately, many doctors and labs are still using some of the OLD, VERY INACCURATE blood tests that are still on the market. There is a list of the GOOD HERPES BLOOD TESTS and more information on our website at:
http://www.datingwithherpes.org/herpes_blood_tests.htm.

Print out this information out for your doctor! And make SURE your doctor is using one of the newer, very accurate blood tests! If they don't know the name and manufacturer of the test they are using, make sure they find out! You'll be helping yourself, and you'll be helping your doctor get educated about herpes so that they can better treat their future patients.

If your doctor still seems clueless, you can also order your OWN confidential herpes blood test from a local lab by going to: http://www.TSTD.org. It costs about $98 for the Herpes 1 & 2 screens. This company uses one of the GOOD herpes blood tests.

For more information, click here.

Good luck!

DWH

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Herpes, Honesty and Unproductive Blame

Below is reprinted with permission from someone's post on the Bay Area Friends' Yahoo Group.

DWH
************

I just want to remind everyone that @ 20% of people over 12 in the US carry the virus for genital herpes, but up to 90% of the people who have it don't even know it because their symptoms are mild, infrequent or non-existent. Also, most doctors don't include a test for herpes, even when they tell you they are testing you for *all* STD's - unless you specifically ask them for a herpes blood test. Many out-of-date doctors will even tell you that there are no accurate blood tests for herpes or that no test can accurately distinguish between HSV1 and HSV2 (very wrong).

Although everyone in this group KNOWS that they have herpes - often because we had noticeable symptoms that we got checked out - many other people do NOT have noticeable symptoms or their symptoms went away quickly and their doctors misdiagnosed them with things like jock itch or a vaginal infection. Some people have doctors who told them that even if they had herpes, they could not pass it to anyone else unless they were having an active outbreak - very bad information!

Most new cases of genital herpes are the result of sleeping with people who do not even know that they have it or are at risk for spreading it. It's possible that in your particular case, and with your particular partner, they may have known and did not disclose. Or they may have been told that they were not at risk for spreading it, or they were otherwise ignorant about the facts or in denial. But statistically, most people with genital herpes don't know they have it and got it from someone else who doesn't know it. Most cases of genital herpes are never diagnosed.

Everyone's story is different. I did not show any symptoms for herpes until about a year after I was married. I *assumed* that I got it from my then husband, who had many more previous partners than I did. He claimed that he didn't have it, but I didn't believe him. About 2 years later after we separated, he took one of the accurate herpes blood tests for herpes and tested NEGATIVE. So I had *assumed* wrong. I apparently had herpes BEFORE I even met him. I don't know who I got it from. And I did not have any symptoms until AFTER I was married. So you cannot just *assume* that your most recent partner was how you got herpes. It might have happened years earlier. As the saying goes, "when you *assume* - you make an *ass* of *u* and *me.* You cannot always be certain that your most recent partner was the source of your herpes. I feel fortunate that despite my diagnosis, I did not spread herpes to my ex-husband or other boyfriends since - whom I insist on getting tested.

Honesty is always the best policy. Most of us are probably here, in part, because we want to be responsible and increase our knowledge about herpes and reduce our risk of spreading it. Let's make a point of informing potential new partners (and anyone else you want to tell) about the facts about herpes so that we can diminish the stigma. Even though some of our past partners may have been lying, ignorant or in denial, most of us got it from people who didn't know. Let's focus on how we can make things better going forward. Let's all become good examples of how to responsibly deal with an STD, and show other people that many nice, normal people have herpes and it does not have to ruin your life.

********

Reprinted with permission.
For more information on herpes diagnosis, accurate blood tests, regional herpes social groups, and a list of herpes online dating services, go to:
http://www.datingwithherpes.org/

Friday, February 26, 2010

Online Dating Services for People with Herpes

Dear DWH:

Now that I have been diagnosed with herpes, I am concerned about spreading it to people I might date.  Are there any online dating services for people with herpes, where I can meet people who already have what I have, and not worry about having "the talk" or spreading it to someone?

Ready to Date


Dear Ready to Date:

Yes, there are several places you can go online (and offline) to meet other people who have herpes for dating, or socializing and support.  Most larger cities in the USA have active social groups for people with herpes who live in and around their city. Joining a local H social group is a great way to meet people who are nice, normal people, just like you, who also happen to have HSV1 or HSV2.  Most of these groups offer social events where people can meet each other in a friendly, supportive, fun atmosphere. Not everyone is single or looking for people to date - but many people do meet and date through these groups.  There is a list of regional H social groups at the Dating With Herpes website at http://www.datingwithherpes.org.

However, if you are primarily interested in meeting people to date, there are several websites devoted exclusively to people with Herpes and other STD's.  The largest of these is Positivesingles.com.  Many other websites are listed with descriptions and pricing info at http://www.datingwithherpes.org/herpesdatingonline.htm

Keep in mind that the larger dating websites may be more expensive, but may have more active members than some of the smaller, less expensive dating websites.  Most offer a free trial membership period - or free "limited" memberships that allow you to post a profile.  But if you want to be able to send a note to other members, you need to upgrade to a paid membership.

Not everyone with herpes feels like they should only date other people with herpes.  Many people do date non-infected people and take precautions to help prevent transmission.  Everyone's experience with herpes is different - many people have herpes but display no symptoms, while others have serious and frequent outbreaks.  Your personal experience with herpes generally colors your choices about whom to date.  The main thing that most people agree on - is that it's absolutely mandatory to inform your partners about your HSV status BEFORE you have intimate contact, so that the other person can make an informed choice before deciding to have sex with you.  Being honest is always the best policy.

Whatever you choose to do, good luck!  And again, more information on Dating with Herpes and Online Dating Services for people with herpes can be found at: http://www.datingwithherpes.org/herpesdatingonline.htm

DWH 

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Can I Transmit Herpes To People I Live With?

Dear Dating with Herpes:

I was just diagnosed with H today. Its still all sinking in, but overall I think I'm taking it well. Of course its just the first day so we'll see. As a 27 yo, I've been one of those dudes who thought he was invincible and that I couldn't get an STD. Anyway I have a ton of questions... most importantly, I live with my folks and don't want them to transmit H to them. Any advice would be great. Thanks!!

Prodigal Son


Dear PS:

The herpes virus is very fragile and can only be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact when the virus is active. You may wonder if someone can get herpes from a toilet seat that you just sat on. However, there are no proven cases of getting herpes from a toilet seat. According to the Mayo Clinic, "It's very unlikely that you would get genital herpes from a toilet seat. Most sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are transmitted only during sexual contact, either by skin-to-skin contact or through exchange of bodily fluids. The microorganisms — bacteria and viruses — that cause STDs such as genital herpes tend to be sensitive to their surroundings and can't survive outside the human body on a surface like a toilet seat for very long."

If you have HSV1 (usually associated with Oral Herpes), you should know that most people already carry that particular strain of herpes which is usually acquired in childhood from kissing. Only occasionally do people have symptoms (cold sores) so it's pretty benign for most people. Some people have more frequent symptoms because of their immune system or stress, etc.

If you have HSV2 (usually associated with Genital Herpes), around 25% of all adults in the US already have it, and for most people, the symptoms are mild and infrequent and lessen over time. There are many couples where one person has herpes and the other does not.

In any case, good hygiene is a great idea, especially when you are having an outbreak. Soap and water kills the virus, as well as just being exposed to the open air. You can't spread herpes in a swimming pool or hot tub - unless you're having sex with someone there. So you shouldn't worry about your parents getting herpes from the toilet, bathtub, sink or shower. If you want to be extra sure - go ahead and clean up after yourself for the mental security it will give you. But really, as long as there's no incest going on, your parents are safe!

DWH

Sunday, February 24, 2008

If Both of Us Have Genital Herpes - Can we make things worse?

Hi,

I am a single female (almost 50) who was diagnosed with H about 2 years ago. I am interested in becoming intimate with a man who was diagnosed about 4 years ago. He is very afraid to get close because he says he might hurt me. I have tried to find something about two people with herpes who become intimate. Can you please tell me where I can read an article or find some information about this? Can we hurt each other if both of us have genital herpes? I thought I was taking this in stride though I was devastated at first and depressed too. I had sex with a good friend who wasn't honest with me. The relationship ended because of it. Now I have met someone new. I appreciate your input on this issue.

Thank you,

One of Two with H


Dear One of Two with H:

If you BOTH already have HSV2, then you cannot re-infect each other. However, you should still refrain from sex when one or both of you are having an active outbreak. Also, suppressive therapy might help in reducing the number and frequency of outbreaks. If you friend has not tried daily Valtrex (or Acyclovir or Famvir) as suppressive therapy, he might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

I would send him the link to our website at: http://www.datingwithherpes.org where he can read up on more current information on herpes. His fear of spreading it - even to someone who already has it - seems strange unless he's getting information from a misinformed doctor. Links to much better and more recent information can be found on our website.

Good Luck!

DWH