Q: I just got diagnosed with genital herpes. I do not wish to tell ANYONE about it.. even future partners. Yet I know this is incredibly unfair and I will feel absolutely terrible if I don't tell them. How can I go about this?
A: You're right that it's always a good (and right) thing to tell your partners if you have an STI (sexually transmitted infection), such as herpes. The good news is that you now know that you have this STI, so you can actively manage it. You're already far better off than the thousands of people who have STIs, but don't even know it. Thankfully, herpes itself is very treatable and, if you follow the steps outlined below, it's unlikely you'll pass it on to anyone else.
The first thing you should do is contact your doctor about getting on medication to keep the herpes virus in remission. Most often when people get herpes, they will only have occasional outbreaks (and usually more often right after getting the virus). There are certain medications, such as Valtrex, that help to keep these outbreaks from happening. This lessens the pain and sores caused by herpes and also greatly prevents the virus from spreading.
Herpes typically spreads when a sore forms, which releases puss that contains the virus. If that puss comes into contact with someone else's genitals, then they can contract the virus. So, if you notice that you're having an outbreak, with visible sores, pain or itching on the genitals, don't have sex during that time. Outbreaks are most likely to occur right after contracting the virus or when the immune system is compromised, such as when someone has a flu or cold.
Lastly, you should try to contact the last person you had sex with, as this is likely the person you contracted the STI from. It wouldn't be helpful to accuse or chastise them, but you can let them know that you have the virus, which makes it likely that they do as well. Simply raising awareness of the disease, as well as how to manage it, can greatly help prevent its spread in the greater community.
Answers provided by Dr. Ross Avilla
Dr. Ross Avilla has been teaching Human Sexuality since 2013 and has a PhD in psychology from UC Davis. Dr. Avilla is not a clinician and all information and advice offered on this website is for educational purposes only.