From day one my own personal life-long herpes infection has presented me with several ethical challenges. It has challenged me on the question of who to tell and when. It has challenged me on the issue of what to say and how to others with herpes. It has challenged me on the question of “Do I have any responsibilities towards trying to prevent the people in the community who do not herpes from getting it, and if so what are they”?
On how to tell and when:
When I was diagnosed with herpes the doctors told me that it was safe to have sex with others as long as I avoided having sex during outbreaks and that I would get warning signs of when an outbreak would be coming. Luckily, we are working with much better information these days. A person with herpes is potentially contagious every-single day of the year and safer sex including using a combination of a condom or dental dam and an anti-viral gel is the best way of ensuring that one
isn’t inadvertently spreading the virus.
I was an irresponsible coward when I first got herpes. Because thedoctors told me that I wasn’t contagious without outbreaks and because I was in the habit of using condoms, I decided that I only had to tell someone that I had herpes if and when it seemed like the relationship was turning serious and there would be regular sexual contact. I had justified my cowardice by thinking that the risk to others was too small to stick my neck out and get the rejection due to a herpes leper. Please don’t be like me. Not telling someone before you have sex that you have herpes is absolutely the wrong thing to do. There’s no real way to justify it. I now tell potential lovers I have herpes even before the first date. It gets the weight of this guilt most herpes people have off my chest and to me it feels like the right thing to do.
Many people tell me that it’s okay if you’re not going to have sex with someone to wait and see if the relationship becomes serious before telling them about herpes. Sure this is much better than waiting until after sex, but to me it still isn’t good enough. If you care about someone, if you respect them , why not tell them as early as possible so they can decide if they want to invest the energy and time in getting to know you better? Isn’t it a bit manipulative to allow someone to develop feelings for you without warning them that they risk a life-long viral infection if they get involved with you? Think about it. If you wait until they are already emotionally attached to you, they may feel compelled to continue with the relationship when they may not have if you had told them up-front. It takes more courage and integrity to tell early but it feels better to have the weight off your chest and the person you tell will usually respect you for giving them the choice.
I am especially appealing to men since I believe that men are not as protective of their sex partners when it comes to telling about herpes as women are. Guys, please don’t have sex with anyone without telling them about your herpes. And if they don’t know the facts don’t understate the risks- herpes is a more physically and emotionally devastating disease for women than it is for men and it is much easier for a man to give a woman herpes than it is for a woman to give it to a man.
On how and what to say to others with herpes:
I am a holistic healer- a herbalist and homeopath. My family have been healers for many generations in my native country of Trinidad and Tobago and as far back as Africa. I had little to no interest in treating herpes as a healer until I got herpes myself. Wanting to change a negative to a positive, I decided to make the holistic treatment of herpes the cornerstone of my practice. The bible says “the stone that the builder refused, I will make my cornerstone. Bob Marley and the wailers sing about it too.
It didn’t take me long once I decided to become a holistic viral specialist to realize that I was confronted with a daunting challenge. Most professionals including all the herbalists and homeopaths I know rely heavily on referrals to build their client-base. Here I was now working with a client-base that I was never going to get a lot of referrals from. My patients with herpes don’t go around telling the world that I helped them with their outbreaks. Some of my patients have yet to tell their significant others that they have herpes, many have not told their closest friends and their family. I am not a company. I don’t have an advertising budget. The only way for me to reach out to others with herpes and encourage them to come for me for treatment was to speak out in public about my herpes work and about herpes in general. This forced me to be far more out of the closet than would have been my personal choice.
I seem to always create challenging situations for myself. Speaking to others with herpes is not a task for the faint of heart. Some people like to shoot the messenger- I have the bullet-wounds to prove it. But I can say that speaking to others with herpes has been and continues to be one of the most gratifying experiences in my life. I feel a deep bond with many of the people with herpes who interact with me. I felt this kind of bond when I played team sports. I’ve felt this kind of bond all my life with other black people. There’s something about “us against the world” that can make people tight with other. I love my herpes friends. I love my herpes patients- even the ones who misbehave. I am not grateful for getting herpes, but I don’t regret it either. Nevertheless, the truth hurts, and I have some bitter truth to tell others with herpes:
Having a lover who also has herpes isn’t a free ticket for unprotected sex. Even if you both have the same strain Even if one gave it to the other. Having unprotected sex with each other can and often will make one or both partner’s cases of herpes worse. It’s called re-inoculation and it’s a message many with herpes don’t want to hear.
If you have herpes or cold sores you are potentially contagious everyday and there is no sure way to tell if you are shedding virus. So do consider using a condom/dental dam combined with an anti-viral gel when having sex and do be careful about sharing wet towels or wash cloths with others.
No two people get herpes the same way so you are going to have your own individual experience with the virus and will have to find your own way of dealing with it on all the different levels you will have to deal with it.
A cure for herpes in our lifetime is unlikely and there are no quick-fix solutions for managing herpes. Herpes cannot be managed with a topical agent alone- whether it be creams, lotions, or essential oils. Managing herpes takes changing your diet, managing stress and other triggers, and may also require either taking herbal medicine or drug therapy.
You may not get fewer outbreaks as you get older. While this is often the case, since no two people get herpes the same way, other diseases, menopause, self-abuse, re-inoculation by unprotected sex and other factors can change the pattern of frequency and severity of outbreaks at any point during your life-long journey with herpes.
Cold-sores are just as contagious if not more contagious than genital herpes and you can infect others when there are no signs of sores present.
Having herpes does make you more vulnerable to other sexually transmitted infections including HIV, cervical dysplasia and genital warts.
Daily use of l-lysine is an ineffective strategy for treating herpes and can do more harm than good. There are more effective natural remedies such as garlic for treating herpes without side-effects.
On talking to those who don’t have herpes:
The reality check for me is that the mainstream and alternative media do not want talk about herpes. They would prefer to keep us in a ghetto. There is a lot of misinformation floating around and people without herpes have few places to turn to hear the facts about herpes. They don’t hear the facts in their churches, young people are not being educated enough about herpes in school. Most parents aren’t teaching their children about herpes, older siblings are not passing information down to the younger ones.
It’s really up to us who have herpes to try harder to dialogue with those who don’t. HIV won’t be the last word in human population control from the world of viruses. If we don’t learn how to better protect the population from getting herpes and other sexually transmitted infections we are going to be in a lot of trouble. Herpes is a gateway disease it provided easy access through your mucus membranes for any sexually transmitted virus.
It is my unshakeable conviction that those of us in the herpes community need to be more vocal in the media and to also reach out to those around us. Each one teach one. Each one reach one.
From day one my own personal life-long herpes infection has presented me with several ethical challenges. It has challenged me on the question of who to tell and when. It has challenged me on the issue of what to say and how to others with herpes. It has challenged me on the question of “Do I have any responsibilities towards trying to prevent the people in the community who do not herpes from getting it, and if so what are they”?…