How to tell someone you have herpes, HPV, or another STD
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as herpes and HPV, have long been stigmatized, often stirring up feelings of shame, embarrassment, and dread for those who are diagnosed. But the truth is, herpes and HPV don’t have to mean a death sentence for your love life.
If you’ve been diagnosed with HSV or HPV, don’t let it keep you from entering the dating world with confidence. Here is a quick guide to help you responsibly and confidently disclose to partners so you can get back in the game!
Coming to terms with your diagnosis
Before you can start celebrating successful disclosures, you’ll need to spend some time coming to terms with your diagnosis yourself. After all, if you are unable to accept your status, how can you expect someone else to?
One thing that can be helpful in accepting your status is realizing that you’re far from alone. More than half a billion people are already living with genital herpes, and several billion more with oral herpes, which can also cause genital herpes. Most adults also have or will get HPV at some point in their lives, with 13 million new HPV infections each year in the U.S. alone. Still, despite how common these STDs are, everyone handles their new status differently.
To help rebuild your confidence after receiving a positive test result, consider giving yourself some time away from the dating game to focus on caring for yourself, such as boosting your overall health, minimizing outbreaks, and seeking therapy. It may also be helpful to join some support groups or start by disclosing to a friend or family member that you feel will be supportive and understanding.
Present them with the facts
There is a lot of fear-based misinformation about herpes out there, so giving your potential partner the right information will ensure that your partner has the most accurate information to base their decision on and will also show them that you care about their health and safety.
Some stats you may want to share with your partner include:
- How common herpes and HPV actually are
- What living with herpes or HPV is actually like
- How HPV and Herpes are transmitted
- Steps you can take to minimize the risk of transmission (barrier methods, antivirals, communicating outbreaks, etc.)
Just make sure that your partner does understand that there is always a risk that you could pass herpes or HPV, even with condoms and other methods. Making sure they are aware of and OK with this before moving forward can avoid some hurtful realizations down the line. You also don’t have to dive into deep explanations or make it sound dreadful. Billions of people live with HPV and herpes every day.
Give them time to think
Disclosing is hard, but receiving one can be difficult, too. It’s best to give your potential partner time to digest the information and make a decision they feel comfortable with. For this reason, it’s best to disclose during a casual conversation or over the phone, so they have space to think things through, do some of their own research, and ask you any questions they may have about it.
Avoid disclosing in the heat of the moment, where you and your partner may be more likely to make an impulsive decision that could be later regretted.
Ask for their test results
While you may be stressed out about how a potential partner may react to your status, remember that they can have one of their own! Herpes, HPV, and other STDs and STIs commonly go undiagnosed because the person carrying them is asymptomatic. In addition, most standard testing panels don’t usually include common STDs, such as herpes, HIV, HPV, and Trich. This is because testing isn’t always accurate, easy, or even possible in some cases.
Be sure to ask any potential partner when they were last tested and their results so you can both have the information you need to practice safer, more pleasurable sex.
Don’t take it personally if they no
No matter how good your batting average is, we all strike out once or twice. So, while hearing “no” can certainly sting, try not to let it discourage you. We all deserve to be with someone who accepts us for who we are, and that can take time—STD or not. And if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, remember that there are 8 billion people in the world, and most of them already have or had at least one STD or STI in their lifetime!
Communicating about outbreaks, prevention, and boundaries
Once you do get the green light, it’s a good idea to have a conversation about how you will navigate the realities of an STD before getting down and dirty. For example, you may want to discuss what barrier methods you both feel comfortable with, what things are on and off the table, different things that may help you prevent an outbreak (like using additional lubricants to prevent friction-based outbreaks), and other common questions to ask a new partner before sex.
You should also discuss how you will communicate a potential ongoing outbreak and whether or not that will mean a pause in intimacy and for how long. Remember, just because you may want to avoid genital-to-genital contact during an outbreak doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy other forms of intimacy.
You and your partner can practice different ways to pleasure each other. For example, you may choose to focus on their pleasure during an outbreak, or you can enjoy a mutual masturbation session. And if your partner is eager to please you themselves, you may consider adding a vibrator to the mix.
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