Dating and STDs – what would your readers’ opinion be?

Hi IHM!

I would like to ask a question of your readers, particularly the male ones: what would your opinion be if a woman you were interested in, either for a relationship or for marriage, told you she has a STI (i.e herpes I, Herpes II, Hepatitis C or HPV) or has health effects resulting from a past STI (chlamydia, syphilis or gonorrhea)?

My situation is this:

I’m a happily divorced woman in her 30s, who is fortunate to not have the pressure to marry again, settle down, etc. I say I’m happily divorced as the marriage was not happy.

I’m interested in dating, and have run into the following problem.

I’m finding out that HSV I and II are extremely common where I live. The bad side is that: a) HSV I and II can be very easy to pass on, AND b) there is NO CURE.

Now, the good side (if it can be called that) is that, for many people, HSV I and II are asymptomatic, so they don’t even know they have it (again, this makes transmission very easy due to no symptoms). Thus, ‘nothing’ is the outcome for many people. The worst case is that Herpes causes blisters on the mouth (if acquired by kissing) and fever in some people.

Besides this, it’s related to chicken pox and shingles, as it’s caused by the same core virus. And yet….

Due to the fact that this is *sexually transmitted*, the stigma around STIs in particular, and HSV in particular, is high. And that’s just the general population. I have two other things to contend with, as below.

My concern is that I live with my family and don’t want them to be embarrassed by me if I were to acquire these infections specifically. I am more liberal in outlook than they are, even though their outlook has expanded a lot since my divorce. They are religious and middle-ground in their values. HSV is either really obvious (if the blisters are around the mouth), or painful (if the blisters are at the other popular site – the genitals (sorry everyone)). Thus, I’m really concerned that if I acquired it, basically, they would come to know.

Further, I don’t know what the reaction of Indian men, or men who have an Indian background would be if I were to acquire a STD *DESPITE* being careful in the whole dating and intimacy area. I’ve avoided Indian men so far, as they are either very conservative and not interested in dating, or are just sleazy. It seems the middle ground is pretty slim and hard to find.

To add to all this, I’ve lived outside India for a long time, and have interacted (as in spoken with) with men who are not Indian. Dating and intimacy is pretty much part of social interaction in the West (well, it’s based on a person’s preferences, wants, needs, etc etc). These then raise more questions in my mind: Is it wrong for me to be doing things the ‘Western way’ and meeting for outings, dinner, etc? Or even going further? Should I risk family disapproval if something should happen to me? Should I risk never having a relationship with an Indian man if I happen to find one who seems compatible with me?

This is something that has played on my mind for a long time, and I’d like to ask your readers about the same.

Thank you.

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Who is afraid of awareness about menstruation, and open letters to all Gynaecologists?

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“This is how we all do it. We find a corner in the house, where the others can’t see, and then dry them.”

11 thoughts on “Dating and STDs – what would your readers’ opinion be?

  1. Dear LW,
    I think you should be careful about acquiring STDs with the men you date, Indian or otherwise. It is not about your family finding out or embarrassment caused to you. You should be careful for the sake of your own health.
    – Looks like your concern arises from an assumption that you might settle down with an Indian man again and therefore what would they think about your situation (STD or not). I think you should find a partner who truly loves you for who you are and understands you – Your core values. It doesn’t matter whether he would be an Indian or not. If it does matter to you, I have seen a lot many examples of Indian men who are open and forward thinking. But, I don’t know where you live and is it possible to find those men there.
    – If the place you live in poses so much of STI threat for you to date, and you are concerned about it, can you consider changing your job or switching to a place where you feel safe to date. I don’t think there is something wrong in dating western men or indulging in your needs. People’s opinion doesn’t matter here. It is your opinion and your conscience that matters. If your thinking matches your action, you should not be worried.
    I would like to tell you, it is your health which is of utmost importance here. You should be sure, secure and safe with whoever you date. And please do take care of that.

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    • Hi QV,

      This is the LW (Really!). In North America, HSV I and II are highly prevalent. By having a social life in North America, which includes kissing (not necessarily on the mouth btw), it’s pretty easy to spread these two infections.

      And thank you for your advice re: core values and men. In my experience, men are a varied bunch when it comes to values (well, people are a varied bunch). Anyway, you’re right, one should think of one’s health first!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Having lived in a region where genital herpes is fairly common (Northern California, about 20% of sexually active adults are HSV+) & practiced medicine there I can tell you this-

    Use a condom- not a guarantee that you won’t contract an STD but it’s the best prevention other than abstinence available.

    HSV is incurable, BUT some patients I’ve seen have breakouts weekly or monthly or yearly & some patients have one initial breakout & never suffer any effects ever again. Some HSV+ breakouts are so severe the patient can barely walk or eat due to the pain, some breakouts are so minor they’re a barely even a noticeable blister. There is no way to predict HSV breakouts.

    There are medications that can reduce the incidence & severity of HSV breakouts once contracted, acyclovir & valacyclovir are commonly used. The results I’ve seen in HSV+ patients using these medications varies quite a bit- some have their breakouts reduced to little or nothing, others continue to have severe breakouts with little to no effect.

    There is a danger of a pregnant woman passing on the virus to her baby during delivery. Now this chance is only about 1%, and usually only happens if the woman is having an HSV breakout within 6 weeks of delivery. If the mother is newly infected with the virus in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy then the risk of her baby contracting the virus soars to 30-50% & can be fatal or cause blindness to the child. Obviously this can be avoided by not having sex during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy.

    Herpes infection in a newborn is also serious. Do not allow anyone with a cold sore/herpes breakout on the mouth to kiss a baby. If you have a cold sore/herpes breakout, don’t kiss the baby, and wash hands with soap and water before touching the baby.

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    • LW here. I live in Canada, and the way the public health service here works is that there is NO testing for HSV I or II (it’s a way to cut costs to not test for it :S). If I want a test, it’s out of pocket and is very expensive. I’ve never had an outbreak, I’ve never had a cold sore, so thus far (before I went on an internet research binge about HSV) I was assuming that I don’t have it.

      My research on Google basically said that:
      a) There is no ‘Safe’ sex, only Safer sex.
      b) Condoms are just the beginning. Latex can cover anything – hands, body parts, etc etc

      That’s interesting btw about the 3rd trimester information – I didn’t know that before.

      As a physician, seeing as you have dealt with the complete spectrum of symptoms and patients (I’m presuming here), what’s your opinion of the infection? Should I be considering it a big deal? There’s a move in some circles to de-stigmatize HSV, but Indians may have a very different opinion than mainstream North American society.

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  3. HSV is extremely common, as you say. While it isn’t curable, it is treatable. I wouldn’t worry about it so much. If it really concerns you, it’s alright to ask your partner to disclose any STD’s/STI’s he or she might have and also to ask him/her to get a STD/STI screening. In fact, you should probably get one yourself.

    However, any kind of sexual activity must be safe. So, definitely use a barrier method like a condom to prevent STD’s. You can also use another form of birth control (IUD’s etc.) in addition to this, if you want.

    And to your other questions, yes, yes you should “risk” having a relationship with men you like, Indian or otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with it🙂

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    • LW here: I think the mutual screening advice is very sound myself (I’m in Canada, and really wish that such a clinic and such screening wouldn’t be taboo in India – we can dream!).

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  4. I think I personally would be wary of dating someone who has an STI because of the risk it would pose to be acquiring it. If it already someone I know I trust, and believe has taken the treatment needed, I would not worry so much. If it was a completely new partner I guess I would feel uncomfortable until I somehow had proof that they did take treatment ( for gonorrhea/syphilis/chlamydia) – very very unromantic I know.
    Having said this , in the real world of dating, it is impossible to cut down your risk to 0% unless you are with someone who has never been sexually active before. Your best bet is to
    a. Be with people you can be open with and ask about their STI history
    b. Always use barrier protection such as a condom
    c. Get regular testing .
    While most STIs like herpes /trichomonas are merely symptomatic but otherwise have no lingering effects on health, others like gonorrhea/chlamydia can affect your fertility. Some would also affect a newborn. In other words, if you are planning to have a baby, you have to be even more forthright and ready to ask uncomfortable questions with the people you will be dating.

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  5. OK, so let me tell you having acquired Herpes simplex virus 1 myself,, I am happy I have the opportunity to help.
    I am an Indian single woman and I got HSV through a very unfortunate incidence with a very sleazy guy. A few things I would like to point out:
    1) a lot of STI screening do not screen for HSV or HPV (they do for HIV, gonorrohea, Chlamydia and syphillis. I am in the UK and the NHS does not include this screening but you could get screened with a private doctor by paying)
    2) Please never fall for a sleazy guy no matter how hot or flirty he is. A sleazy guy almost does wear a tag of sleaziness. A nice guy would be someone who has his priorities right and cares about you even as a friend. He has opinions and interests other then just women and sex and drinking. Please have a few conversations with him to judge how mature he would be. There are a lot of guys out there who have their priorities right and are nice but don’t have the maturity to deal with bigger issues. Again immature guys almost always wear a tag of immaturity. They don’t have a long term vision and everything is usually balck and white for them
    3) HSV is extremely common, I have been lucky to have just one outbreak and never again and i have made sure that I told all my dates before any kind of intimacy. And you know what they have accepted me with this flaw. The reason they accepted me was because I made sure i never hurt them and was extra careful to make sure that it doesn’t pass on to them
    4) Please don’t do anything you are not comfortable with even if it is 100% safe. If you go to a clubs or via tinder it is more likely that they want one thing but if you meet a nice mature guy through a trusted friend or family I can bet he can wait till you are ready and just wants your company if he likes you.
    5) condom is a good protection but it is not 100% protection against certain STDs. Its just a risk you have to take if you want to take it. even with a condon there is always a chance of it breaking even though it is a tiny chance. But millions of people take this risk not because they are stupid but because everything in life is a risk. Driving, cooking, stepping out of the house are all risks we take on a daily basis. Its a completely personal choice if you want to take this risk or not. Just make it a calculated risk (don’t drink drive or drive on the wrong side of the road- if you know what I mean)
    6) Once you find a man whom you can completely trust and that trust will be very natural, there will be no instincts telling you something is wrong, no alarm bells ringing in the background, you will naturally surrender to him and not think about stds, but even then make sure u both are protected

    This is all I can think of, please do let me know if you have more questions, I am happy to help

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  6. I personally don’t like one night stands that includes kissing a stranger or a person I just came to know. Before you get to kiss and sex, know each other better, that had been my motto. After you are comfortable with each other, you both can take tests and discover any problems. I know it is kind of hard. People will say about their sexual needs but I think I would better consider my health than my sexual needs n jump into it without thinking.

    There are other types of herpes virus such as CMV, virus causing chickenpox, they don’t necessary spread through sexual contact but through bodily fluids. They stay in body forever.

    So just dont jump into intimacy too fast, that’s my only advice.
    It’s hard to find a completely healthy person but you can minimize your risk by discovering it

    Like

    • LW here. I like your attitude in saying ‘minimize your risk’ as opposed to ‘avoid the risk’ as I am also of the opinion that eliminating the risk would be unrealistic.

      And yes, isn’t the Herpes virus in all its forms fun?! It never leaves – the gift that keeps giving (eyeroll).

      And yes, I learned to wait and to just be patient. It’s like a chess or poker game: if there’s something going on, if you wait, the other person will show their hand. Which sounds cynical, until you realize things from hard experience.

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      • I personally won’t leave a man just coz we discovered that he has herpes. I would rather have us consult doctors and take precautions. But also on the other side I won’t date a person anymore if he refuses to go for std screening. Because then whole relationship is actually flawed.

        I know many people in dating world may find it weird, but again there are billions people in world and you will eventually meet someone who thinks alike you.

        My husband (then bf) and I also talked about it and had ourselves tested, but at that time I was more scared of HIV than HSV. We found few things but we were okay. We had finally found each other.

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