Q: I've been seeing this girl and we've really been hitting it off. But my gut reaction is to ghost and never look back—I don't want herpes! – Jason, San Antonio A: Finding out your partner has herpes can be a bombshell at any point in the relationship. But it is not nearly as unique or earth-shattering as you think it is. I know there a lot of thoughts and anxieties swirling in your head—about your partner’s health, about your health, about your partner’s fidelity, about your future (or lack thereof) with your partner—and we’ll get to all that.
That’s because herpes infections are much more complicated than we paint them in our SNL sketches and stand-up routines. It’s from Project Accept.org: Around 75% of Americans carry HSV 1 or HSV 2 somewhere on their body.
Not just compared to everyone you know, but compared to your own life up to this point.
What’s unique about this situation is that one of you knows and is talking about it openly. The shaming of the “unclean” and the fear loom far larger than the actual health risks to the population. That two people might hook up–be it a third date or a long committed relationship–and one or both of them has herpes and doesn’t know it is hardly far fetched.
When prodrome is present, it means the virus is active and the chances of transmission are high. But on the grand scale of things, herpes might be less of a challenge than celiac’s disease or severe nut allergies or even a monthly menstrual cycle.
Is the risk higher than being in a relationship with someone who is confirmed negative? But is it realistic to only be in relationships with people who have been recently tested for herpes? For most people, herpes outbreaks happen less and less frequently as time goes on.
There are medications that can shorten or prevent outbreaks and reduce the chances of transmitting herpes to another person.