Hi, I Have Herpes (Can We Have Sex…Again?)
Some of you know and some of you don’t, but I wrote a story for the June 2009 issue of Essence (Jennifer Hudson cover, pg. 82) called “Gambling With Herpes.” It was for their popular “What’s On His Mind” column, where I interviewed an anonymous man (we’ll call him Mr. H) who’s had the herpes virus for the past 10 years. Since being diagnosed, he has slept with roughly 15-20 women—mostly unprotected.
Until recently, only one women knew Mr. H’s status—the mother of his children, who’s now infected. They were broken up and had kids long before he contracted the virus, but would link back up on occasion. Mr. H says she knew his status before they had sex again, but because he didn’t have a breakout at the time they chose to go raw. After years of reckless behavior, Mr. H had an “awakening” of sorts and asked the mother of his children to get tested and that’s when they discovered she was positive—despite never having a breakout herself.
Talking to Mr. H for an hour and a half he seemed pretty “normal.” Descent personality and comes across like one of your favorite uncles. He describes himself as tall, dark and handsome with a good job in the business world. Looking at him or talking to him most would have no idea he was carrying the herpes virus. Remember, folks, you can never look at someone and tell if they have a disease. In fact, due to Mr. H’s constant use of Valtrex he hasn’t had an outbreak (which consists of blisters and open sores in the genital and other infected areas) in over two years. In the time prior to that, he had “brutal” outbreaks. However, that didn’t stop him from having sex.
Ashamed of his condition and unwilling to tell the women he was dealing with about it, Mr. H would oblige their requests for sex as not to arouse “suspicion.” (What man says no to sex?) How could these women not see the blisters? Well, one trick he had was to simply slide his penis through the hole in his boxers during intercourse and call it a “fantasy” of his. Most of the women Mr. H dated (including long-term girlfriends) where clueless. I guess they were so focused on how he looked and getting their rocks off, they never really questioned it nor did they examine his genitals before sex. ("There were times where they wanted to have sex and I was outbreaking on my testicles so that was a very uncomfortable situation.") Why would they? This was a man they (wrongfully) trusted. Sadly, most of these episodes occurred unprotected.
Mr. H admits that he feels guilty about his actions, but was never guilty enough at the time to confess to the women he may probably infected or, at the very least, give up (unprotected) sex. Ten years later, however, he’s come to terms with the error of his ways and helps other herpes-positive people adjust to life with the virus. Now whenever he meets a woman, Mr. H says he suggests early on in the dating process that they both get tested for everything. (NOTE: You have to specifically ask your doctor/clinic to test for herpes because it’s not included in standard STD blood work processing). Once the results come back he reveals his condition to the woman so she has a choice in whether or not to proceed any further with the relationship.
At the time when Mr. H and I spoke, very few women with negative results willingly went on to sleep with him. There was one, though, that had a very nonchalant reaction and that actually scared Mr. H (“I was like, ‘Well, damn, what the hell do you got then?’”). He primarily uses herpes dating sites to find mates now. Better late than never I guess.
Needless to say, there was a lot of reaction to the story when it ran—some negative (CLICK HERE), some positive (CLICK HERE). All in all it was a definite wakeup call to many—myself included. I can’t even front, y’all, after I got off the phone and heard Mr. H’s claim that “I’m a firm believer that everyone over 30 has something,” sex is the farthest thing on my mind when I see a woman now. Yeah, NakedWithSocksOn.com is fun and we get it poppin’ on Wet Wednesdays, but unfortunately the flipside to the joy of sex are its dangerous.
Fellow blogger ABelleInBrooklyn did a great post a few weeks ago (CLICK HERE) that broke down a lot of statistics on herpes rates and other scary examples of positive people being promiscuous and dangerous. Definitely read her post as well.
In the meantime, what I’d like all of you to do is to be more careful. We like to walk around thinking that stuff like herpes, AIDS, chlamydia and any other STD/STI can’t or won’t happen to us. Or that he/she looks too clean or has a too good of a job/education to be infected, but you can’t spot these diseases and viruses just by looking at someone. With the CDC (Center for Disease Control) reporting that approximately 40-percent of African-American adults have the virus that causes genital herpes (stats courtesy to Belle), chances are you’ve been in contact with the virus or maybe even have it and don’t know. There have even been cases where people had the virus for years or their entire life without even having a breakout.
Do yourself and your partner(s) a favor by going to get tested for everything (remember you have to ask for a herpes test). Let’s not just practice safe sex but smart sex as well. We live in a world where Valtrex and condom commercials come on right after TV spots for your favorite morning cereal. It’s real out there, you can’t trust a big butt/dick and a smile anymore.
What are your thoughts on Mr. H’s story? Do you think it’s cowardice to have an incurable disease and sleep with people without informing them of your status? Do you think people that willingly infect others should be arrested and charged with murder? What would you do if someone infected you or a loved one with an incurable STD/STI? If you were in Mr. H’s shoes would you swear off sex for good? Do you think that the outreach work he’s doing now make sup for his previous transgressions? Did you know that herpes tests weren’t included in your normal blood work processing? Now that you do, will you ask your doctor to test for it next time? Do you know anyone that has herpes or another incurable STD/STI? Anyone that is positive willing to share his or her story here anonymously?
Speak your piece…
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UPDATE: Here's the Essence article