Dating & Disclosure - Part 2

So in my last post we were talking about dating and how/when to disclose to friends, family, and even a potential partner. This time I’m going to cover why it is so important to disclose to a potential partner along with dating in AND out of the “positive” community, and how you can still enjoy better, safer sex while living with HSV.

INFORMED CONSENT

Every single person has a right to informed consent, especially when it comes to their sexual health.

Informed consent is the permission that one gives with full knowledge of the potential risks and benefits. The three components to informed consent is: disclosure, an adequate understanding of disclosure, and a partner’s willingness to engage in sexual activity after receiving that information.

Withholding information about your status is, in my professional AND personal opinion, ethically unacceptable. Only after you provide a potential partner with all of the relevant information, are they able to make an informed choice.

The relevant information that I think you should share with your potential partner is simply your STI status. I also think that the risks and benefits (risk - contraction, benefit- your amazing, beautiful body!) are relevant but not always necessary. Your potential partner is more than capable of doing their own research- but I do think it’s helpful if you can share your knowledge.

You are not required to tell this person how you contracted, who you contracted from, how awful your first outbreak was, or how tea tree oil and Valtrex have saved your life! (Lol) You can certainly share as much or as little information as you want. But the only thing that I must encourage you to share is your status.

Lastly, once you tell them your status and they make an informed decision to pursue a sexual relationship with you - YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR SEXUAL HEALTH. Yes, you can do everything in your power to decrease the risk of transmission. Yes, it is hard if someone you care about contracts from you. And yes, it can be nerve racking navigating through all of this. But they have agreed to the potential risks and ultimately they are in charge of their sexual health.

[I’m sorry if that came across as a little stern but I promised to provide you with information on how to have better AND safer sex while living with HSV. And although I can understand why you may not want to disclose to a new partner, ethically - I can not support nondisclosure. Thank you for understanding.]

Whew! Now onto the fun stuff….

POSITIVE DATING

Some H-positive people have told me that it is easier to date within the herpes community. It takes a lot of pressure off of disclosing and it can alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with the possible transmission to a partner! Personally, I’ve never dated within the herpes community so I don’t have a lot of experience on the matter but I do, however, have a list of sites/apps that people have highly recommended!

  • Positive Singles - probably the most popular dating site out there for those living with herpes or other STI’s.

  • Swerve Dating - created by someone living with HSV to help create a more transparent and honest dating scene for those living with STI’s

  • Hift - “the Tinder App for People with STIs” which you can read more about here

  • Meet People with Herpes- a more ‘traditional’ dating site that is geared only towards individuals living with herpes

  • Meetup - check this site/app for local HSV support groups and communities. Here in Austin there are over 700 members in our local group! They also have a secret Facebook group, tons of monthly meetups and mixers, and plenty of dating going on between members!

I am not against H-positive people dating exclusively within the herpes community but it never felt right for me because I didn’t want herpes to limit me in any way. Why should H-negative partners be made unavailable to me?? They shouldn’t. If you are an H-positive women who believes that her chances of ever finding a partner are over - I’m here to tell you that is just not true. However, if it is within your comfort zone to date only H-positive people, then that is perfectly fine too. Just try not to buy in to any limiting beliefs that may hold you back from experiencing life to its fullest!

SAFER, BETTER SEX

This next section will detail safer sex practices while living with HSV. The better sex part comes with time and some “ah-ha!” moments. I started having the best sex of my life after I was diagnosed with HSV because I became much more comfortable with consent and boundaries, open and honest conversations, and lots and lots of self-pleasure practices when I was reconnecting with my body during my personal journey to healing (but that last part we’ll save for another blog post!) Disclosure really does get easier with practice. And once your confidence builds and your communication skills are fine-tuned, you’ll have the tools you need express your needs, wants, and curiosities in the bedroom!

Safer sex practices are extremely important to protect both your partner AND yourself. Just because you’ve been diagnosed with HSV does not mean you are immune to contracting other STI’s (including other types of HSV!) So always, always be sure to protect yourself too!

  • Barrier methods - external/male, internal/female condoms, and dental dams can help to prevent transmission/contraction of HSV and other STI’s during oral, vaginal, and anal sex. However, it only protects the area/skin that is covered!

    [diaphragms and cervical caps are considered barrier methods but only for contraception and NOT protecting from sexually transmitted infections]

  • Anti-virals - in addition to decreasing the length and severity of outbreaks, and even lower the likelihood of recurrence, the daily use of oral anti-virals can reduce viral shedding by 95%. If used in conjunction with a barrier method, the chances of transmitting to a partner can be significantly lowered. You can read a really solid study about this here.

  • Avoiding sex during an outbreak - this may seem obvious but this is when you are most contagious. You are also more likely to experience viral shedding just before and right after an outbreak. So be mindful!

  • DISCLOSURE - here’s that term again! Disclosure can actually play a role in significantly decreasing the chances of transmitting to a partner! If you and your partner are both on the same page about status and safer sex practices, transmission can often be prevented. Together, you can decide what that means for your relationship and sexual interactions.

[My partner and I did not use a barrier method after we started to live together. This was an informed decision that he made after lots of research and honest, open discussion. With disclosure, anti-virals, and avoiding sex during or around the time of an outbreak - he avoided transmission for 11 months! He has since contracted and neither of us could care less]

CASUAL SEX

Many people who engage in casual sex don’t always discuss their STI status. Usually casual sex is fueled by passion, lust, and oftentimes alcohol or other substances. This can impact our judgement and ethical reasoning! Try not to get swept away in the moment and forget to disclose to a partner. Even if it’s someone you don’t plan to see again!

[If you have exposed a partner to HSV and were too afraid or uncomfortable to disclose - there is a website where you can send an anonymous notification informing them that they have been exposed to an STI and should get tested. Learn more about it here. But please consider the ethical dilemma of sharing their personal information (phone number or email) with a website - but it is an option to explore!]

This is a lot of information to process and it may be a bit overwhelming! As always, I encourage you to continue to do more of your own research. The statistics out there are very much in our favor. It is so, so possible to find lovers, prevent transmission to a partner, and enjoy the hell out of your sex life! Remember to protect yourself, as well as your partner, and try not to let HSV hold you back from ANYTHING.

Please feel free to reach out with questions or concerns.

Sending you each love & light,

Rae

Rae Higgins