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Dating Someone with Oral Herpes


tiredofvampires

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I know this subject isn't a new one to emerge on this forum, but it feels like one I need to personalize as a question.

 

For the last 2 months, I have been in nearly daily and fairly intensive conversation with a gentleman who contacted me from one of the dating sites I'm on. He's quite far away -- thousands of miles, so it's a growing LDR. For those who have read my threads in the past, that's no surprise, since I have kept open to meeting men elsewhere, given a dearth in the local dating pool. It of course presents unique and significant challenges, but I'm willing to meet them and believe the right person might think similarly.

 

In the case of this man, I was very impressed by his openness to getting to know each other without a hurried agenda. We have used a variety of media to connect and share our lives, interests, and selves, including face-to-face Skyping. The general tone has been one of authenticity and candidness; and, we have explicitly agreed that it's premature to take others off the table, so each of us is free to pursue anyone else who may come along, locally or otherwise. I don't see anyone on my horizon currently, while he has more selection, though I believe I'm the front-runner so far.

 

Tentative plans have been made to meet this summer (which would require me to travel), and I feel we share a sense that it might possibly help us decide one way or the other whether to become exclusive. This would likely (but not necessarily) involve becoming physically intimate.

 

We share a great deal and there is a lot that seems promising. It's been a very, very long time since I've felt this aligned with someone on many fronts. Then again, there are a few issues and differences that could spell incompatibility, which have caused me pause. These things may be workable though, and so it's a matter of time and further growing intimacy for me to know. I have felt up to this point that the good things are, all things considered, outweighing the things that concern me. I am also very much enjoying this pace, which might have sped up were we in person. There is clearly attraction and rapport.

 

This week we had a terrifically fun and engaging Skype conversation, until the very end, when almost as a footnote to the subject we were on, he mentioned that he breaks out in oral cold sores. I didn't see that coming, so I was a little stunned. Because he said it nonchalantly, and my first response to this condition is, "Yes, it's true, most of the population has it," it took a few moments for it to sink in that there are certain real risks I am facing with this.

 

I have extensively studied the literature on this virus, and while it's true that it's extremely prevalent, and herpes (HSV-1 in this case) is "just an annoying skin infection", I have some health issues that already compromise my immune response (a situation he's aware of), which means that if I contracted it, I might be saddled with more frequent outbreaks than some other person. On further questioning, which I tried to do as sensitively as I could, he said he gets outbreaks every few months. We were suddenly plunged into a serious discussion about our STD records, which is that I am completely free of any infection, while this is the only positive one on his record.

 

Unfortunately, he seemed to know little about this virus. There is no "good" type of herpes or "bad" herpes. Oral herpes is easily transmitted genitally, if oral sex occurs when the carrier/giver is contagious. Of course, it can be passed through kissing, and objects that are shared orally when the carrier is contagious. I could live with those risks, if it weren't for this: that even when an infected person is not having an active outbreak, and even if they are not experiencing the pre-outbreak symptoms (tingling, burning, etc.), which are the times it is most contagious, the skin can shed the virus and infect someone else at any time. This is called "asymptomatic viral shedding," and I've read wildly different statistics on how frequent that can be -- anywhere from 6.6% of the time to 20% of the time, in between outbreaks. In a couple of studies I reviewed, even when someone is taking suppressive anti-viral medication, such as Valtrex, viral DNA has been found to be shedding on the skin, which means those are contagious times. There is no way to know how often or when this is occurring in any given individual, though the frequency of outbreaks increases the amount of shedding that occurs. Given he has outbreaks every few months, it's quite likely that a handful of days each month -- which neither of us would know -- he's shedding. It is also known that about a week BEFORE an outbreak and a week AFTER an outbreak, shedding is likely, as the virus percolates up to the skin from its home in the nerve roots. How would anyone know a week before anything is apparent to avoid contact?

 

This means that really, every time you kiss someone with oral herpes, or any time they perform oral sex on you, however free they are of any signs or symptoms, and however long it's been since their last outbreak, it's a spin of the roulette wheel. And to me, it feels like Russian Roulette, because I already struggle with difficult circumstances that require understanding and patience with a new partner. This I would literally need like a hole in the head.

 

Since he told me this, I have been dealing with a lot of apprehension and ambivalence. I realize that if I reject him on this basis, the next guy might have it. I have just gotten lucky that none of my partners have carried it (I've been scrupulous with getting tested). But as I approach 5 decades of life, I hardly feel ready to ruin this good streak, and so far feel that this is one thing working in my favor: that I can tell my next intimate partner that he will not catch anything from me, and therefore, if we should not work out, he will walk away unscathed, physically.

 

I could tell he was deeply taken aback when I told him the facts about shedding/latency, and the ways it can be transmitted. And our conversation has become strange since then. I've tried to make it clear to him that it's just as much my problem as his (since I have pre-existing health concerns), and we agreed to keep our communications going, to keep being upfront and open as we have been. But I feel he's pulled back. I noticed that he un-hid his profile today. And frankly, there's a part of me that feels utterly defeated with this news.

 

How on earth would I feel if we did proceed to get more serious and physical, only to find that later, we have to part ways -- though now I have a lifelong infection? This is not so much about distance, as any number of ways two people might not work out, and how nothing about love and partnering is guaranteed. Committing over a distance just aggravates the dilemma.

 

I'd like to know how others feel about dating someone who has ORAL herpes in particular, since in a way, I almost think it can affect intimacy more than HSV-2 (genital type). Since all reliable sources recommend barrier methods of protection, even in between outbreaks (because of the shedding), it would mean a lifetime of dental dams, for one -- there goes that whole act. Awesome. And there is no barrier for kissing, which is my favorite thing in the world. And kissing him, then performing oral (so perhaps transmitting the virus there) would mean requiring condoms long-term as well, something I'm loathe to do the rest of my life. Of course, the longer you are together, the more you are pushing the odds. I don't feel that I'm being irrational to note that 70% of new infections occur when a carrier is asymptomatic, that 50% of new genital infections are from ORAL herpes, and that I'm a sitting duck because I have no antibodies to this yet.

 

I welcome any feedback and thoughts, whatever your herpes status.

 

But for those couples where one person had/has oral herpes: How have you dealt with this situation if you were negative and your partner was positive? If you have a partner who is positive, what sort of precautions have you taken and how have they been working?

 

And, if you have oral herpes yourself, whether or not you've ever had outbreaks, how have you managed it and how has it affected you as a couple?

 

If you've ever been in this situation, on either side, how did you decide that your taking the risk was worth it with your partner? How did you make that decision, with futurity being uncertain?

 

I'd be also interested in knowing how anyone dealt with contracting it from a partner, whether you stayed together or broke up.

 

My greatest fear is breaking up, with a new infection, and having to face the dating world again with something else to disclose to prospective dates that has a pretty bad rap, deserved or not. Though even if I'm single the rest of my life, having an outbreak every time I'm stressed is a pretty bad thought (I deal with a good bit of stress), and being on suppressive drugs for life is not something I'd tolerate well either.

 

UGH, I just hate this. I mean, we might not be right for each other anyway, but the only way to know that is to keep pursuing something that really could cause problems for me if we're not.

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I have oral herpes, like an enormous percentage of the population. It is a complete non issue in relationships, has no complications for sex, and is a minor inconvenience if I'm run down.

 

If it's a big enough issue for you to post here, have you considered living in a 10 foot wide sterile plastic ball and having your food fed to you intravenously through a drip? That way you won't have to be in contact with anyone. I think you may have OCD.

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Yeah. I anticipated responses like yours, Dave.

 

I would appreciate responses that take into consideration the facts I have presented: that dating has been incredibly hard for me already, I have some health concerns as is that are hard to disclose, that my immunity is not as strong as the rest of the population, that he has outbreaks not infrequently, that any reputable resource recommends precautions.

 

I have not consulted ANY source that calls it a "complete non-issue". The science doesn't line up with that. HSV-1 is an STI (when the contact is of a sexual nature). It's a question of what level of personal risk you are willing to assume, and there IS a risk. I was exploring that question with posters.

 

I would appreciate that anyone posting on this thread stay away from hyperbole and the kinds of exaggerated talk in Dave's post. Clearly, if I were as afraid as you were speaking about, Dave, I'd be taking those dramatic measures to isolate myself, but so far, I live pretty much as you do. Matter of fact, I don't even use those Purell and sani-wipes dispensers I see everywhere in public, as I think we've become fanatical about germs in casual settings. I have already consulted with my therapist, and I do not have an OCD diagnosis, and this concern has not been invalidated.

 

I realize this is a sensitive subject for some. Please post here only if you can treat the question with respect and non-defensively. Thank you.

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Well, dating these days is hard. Considering I've dated hundreds of men (literally) in the last 3-4 years and nothing has come out of it, I would risk it..I'd take any precaution I could, of course, but, yes, I would give the guy a chance...as long as it wasn't something that could kill me, that is. However, I don't have any health issues, so, I don't know what it is like to be in your position. What's the worst thing that could happen to you?

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Thanks for your post, missmarple -- you're quite the persevering dater, so your input is really appreciated. I have some of the same thoughts...I'm not getting any younger. Who knows if the next guy might have it too, only be less of the person I want in other ways?

 

The worst thing that could happen to me? I suppose giving our relationship the best shot we can, contracting the virus along the way, breaking up, and then having to worry about this being another liability going into another relationship, when I already have a few that are out of my control. Because I already have a chronic health issue that affects certain areas of my life, some men would opt out of that already, let alone if I had something transmissible.

 

If I KNEW that the relationship would last, if I had that kind of crystal ball, I would take the chance. But I don't have that crystal ball.

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Yeah. I anticipated responses like yours, Dave.

 

I would appreciate responses that take into consideration the facts I have presented: that dating has been incredibly hard for me already, I have some health concerns as is that are hard to disclose, that my immunity is not as strong as the rest of the population, that he has outbreaks not infrequently, that any reputable resource recommends precautions.

 

I have not consulted ANY source that calls it a "complete non-issue". The science doesn't line up with that. HSV-1 is an STI (when the contact is of a sexual nature). It's a question of what level of personal risk you are willing to assume, and there IS a risk. I was exploring that question with posters.

 

I would appreciate that anyone posting on this thread stay away from hyperbole and the kinds of exaggerated talk in Dave's post. Clearly, if I were as afraid as you were speaking about, Dave, I'd be taking those dramatic measures to isolate myself, but so far, I live pretty much as you do. Matter of fact, I don't even use those Purell and sani-wipes dispensers I see everywhere in public, as I think we've become fanatical about germs in casual settings. I have already consulted with my therapist, and I do not have an OCD diagnosis, and this concern has not been invalidated.

 

I realize this is a sensitive subject for some. Please post here only if you can treat the question with respect and non-defensively. Thank you.

 

Something like 80% of the population have cold sores, and I think 90% of people will have one at some point in their life. I'm not sure that I've ever seen it described as an STI before, to be honest, but perhaps some websites say as such. Hygiene is quite simple, you don't indulge in oral sex or kissing when you have one present. They are normally only ever present when someone has a cold or is run down etc, so they're not really going to be there when you're feeling jiggy. If you discount people on this basis, then you're left with ten to twenty percent of the population to date from. Get a grip, it's cold sores not HIV.

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Just to add: I know that my situation is a bit different, given that I have some health issues I am already concerned about. So that does add a dimension to this that others may not deal with.

 

But I'm interested to know how others feel about taking the risks that exist for anyone/everyone. Or how they have handled those risks in their relationships.

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@Dave, you should not express an opinion on something that you clearly know nothing about. Nor make judgement on the op when you clearly have dismissed her post and not paid attention to the issue in hand which is NOT just about herpes but the fact that the op is immunouppressed.

 

It is not my business to know or yours as to why she is immunosuppressed, but an example might be that she had in the past a liver transplant and requires her immune system to be suppressed by medication for the rest of her life to prevent her body rejecting the new liver. The downside of this, means she is prone to illnesses and something that might only cause you a few days of discomfort could potentially be life threatening for her.

 

Sorry OP! Back to your concern now

There are options you can consider for a potential partner with herpes and that is for them to take medication to prevent future outbreaks. Or at least so I believe. I am unsure of the effectiveness and I think generally prescribed for HSV 2.

 

I suggest you talk to your GP or specialist re this?

 

I am somewhat concerned though as to why you invest so much time and effort into conversing and trying to create a relationship with someone so far away? And why that initial meet involves you travelling and not him?

 

You mention that your medical situation has made dating difficult. Why? And if you think online is best option for you, why not look locally online?

 

If you want someone to truly understand your condition , it needs to at least be someone you can meet in person and they can overlook it.

Online, these things can be easily overlooked.

 

You need to meet in person and decide if the attraction is mutual before confiding in them and seeing if whatever the block you suggest in your dating life can be overlooked by someone with genuine interest not online interest.

 

I have not looked into your previous threads and only responding to the information provided on this one.

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Hygiene is quite simple, you don't indulge in oral sex or kissing when you have one present. They are normally only ever present when someone has a cold or is run down etc, so they're not really going to be there when you're feeling jiggy.

 

Dave, if this were all there was to it, this post wouldn't be here. Did you read the part about "asymptomatic viral shedding"?

 

And of course it's not HIV. But there are a lot of people who are not easily matched/dated for reasons other than HIV, and I am one.

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The worst thing that could happen to me? I suppose giving our relationship the best shot we can, contracting the virus along the way, breaking up, and then having to worry about this being another liability going into another relationship, when I already have a few that are out of my control.

 

I didn't mean that. I meant, what's the worst thing that could happen to you physically if you contracted the virus? As in, could it kill you, make you really sick, etc.

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@Dave, you should not express an opinion on something that you clearly know nothing about. Nor make judgement on the op when you clearly have dismissed her post and not paid attention to the issue in hand which is NOT just about herpes but the fact that the op is immunouppressed.

 

It is not my business to know or yours as to why she is immunosuppressed, but an example might be that she had in the past a liver transplant and requires her immune system to be suppressed by medication for the rest of her life to prevent her body rejecting the new liver. The downside of this, means she is prone to illnesses and something that might only cause you a few days of discomfort could potentially be life threatening for her.

 

Sorry OP! Back to your concern now

 

Thank you for your supportive and clarifying words, Billie. You're right on about what you said -- I am immunosuppressed. Even so, even if I were totally healthy, the facts about this virus state that it can be transmitted to anyone, even when asymptomatic, so that person would still have an infection in that case, which could in turn be transmitted to a new partner. It just might affect me more severely.

 

I think it's still relevant to ask people here though, because the risk of contracting it is something anyone would have to weigh. And I'm interested to know how others have faced it or would face it.

 

You bring up some great points:

 

There are options you can consider for a potential partner with herpes and that is for them to take medication to prevent future outbreaks. Or at least so I believe. I am unsure of the effectiveness and I think generally prescribed for HSV 2.

 

I suggest you talk to your GP or specialist re this?

 

I do plan on bringing this up with my doctors for the medical perspective, as I only found this out this week, but they will probably not be able to give me the social/emotional/personal perspective that a swath of ENA posters can. That was my hope in posting, anyway.

 

Yes, you're right -- he could take suppressive anti-viral medication. I asked him if he might consider that (hypothetically, of course, since we're not there yet), and he said he would consider it, provided it does not cause any long-term health problems. I just would be wary of asking someone to take something I myself would worry about taking, and no medication is side-effect free.

 

Other than this, he is quite healthy, but he seems to be an anxious-stressful type, and so I think this might play into him getting outbreaks more often than some. Which means more virus is shedding also at asymptomatic times. Anti-viral meds do cut down on that, which is good, though they say it's not 100% either, so still some risk.

 

What I hate about this the most is not knowing WHEN there might be a risk, if it's imperceptible and invisible. If the risk was JUST during an outbreak, I'd be at peace with that.

 

I am somewhat concerned though as to why you invest so much time and effort into conversing and trying to create a relationship with someone so far away? And why that initial meet involves you travelling and not him?

 

I've tried locally, believe me. I live in a pretty isolated, confined place, with a culture that in many ways does not resonate with me. I've networked and been in many settings, put myself out there, and so far I haven't found "the one", and it's pretty much the same ol' same ol' wherever I go. It's very, very frustrating.

 

I still leave myself open to dating here, locally, including anyone here online -- I'm just not counting on it and have to cast a wider net. I shuffle through reams of matches sent to me locally here, and it's just a desert, but I keep checkin in vain. Also, I am considering moving from here anyway. At some point, I feel I might need to do that anyway. So if I met someone, that might meet both those goals at the same time.

 

As for him traveling here, you do make a good point...but due to our schedules in the last couple of months and what we are both doing, it would be hard for him to have come here during these 2 months. I am planning on visiting my family anyway, traveling this summer, which would take me closer to where he is, so it makes sense that this time, it would be me doing the legwork. However, if we got more serious, I would expect for us to take turns, and with longer and longer visits until we felt quite certain. Nothing in haste, here.

 

You mention that your medical situation has made dating difficult. Why?

 

Because it affects my muscles and joints (it's partially autoimmune), and so I can't do a lot of outdoorsy types of things guys in my usual social demographic enjoy, and other activities that involve physical strength and energy. It also affects my income-earning potential. And other aspects of my sexuality. So these are hard things to break to prospective partners. Each one is a hurdle of trusting and taking chances, because each of those issues has been and could be a deal breaker on its own. I have to get to know people very gradually and build up that kind of trust. I just keep thanking god I don't have a condition they can catch to add to it -- which of course, would change if I had HSV-1.

 

If you want someone to truly understand your condition , it needs to at least be someone you can meet in person and they can overlook it.

Online, these things can be easily overlooked.

 

This is quite true -- but the reverse also has some truth. I have actually found that when I get to know someone organically in person, they are much more open to getting to overlooking such things, because there is more of me they can appreciate in real time. Whereas, online, it can be easier to dismiss me because the condition/challenge is more abstract and not in context with the rest of me. So it can go both ways.

 

You need to meet in person and decide if the attraction is mutual before confiding in them and seeing if whatever the block you suggest in your dating life can be overlooked by someone with genuine interest not online interest.

 

Well, because my health affects my activities -- everything from "what did you do today?" to my goals and life projects -- it's pretty hard to keep all of that to myself until a few months in. In fact, it's impossible. So I've been doing the best I can -- shedding light on what my life is about, in a timeframe that doesn't feel hasty. I mostly have shared about myself apart from this, but I've had to be upfront about a few things, otherwise it would feel quite duplicitous later.

 

So far, he has been receptive and open-minded, but he's also left room for being unsure how much it would impact how he feels in real life. Which is completely fair.

 

But I agree, we do have to meet. I just don't know with this hanging over my head now about this HSV-1 thing how to even proceed, or if I should. We are already attracted to one another, as much as can be from a distance, and having seen each other face to face online, talking in real time. The question is, if that translated in person, my fears of contracting herpes would not decrease -- they would just become more real.

 

So this thread is somewhat anticipatory of real life meeting.

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I didn't mean that. I meant, what's the worst thing that could happen to you physically if you contracted the virus? As in, could it kill you, make you really sick, etc.

 

I'm not entirely sure, to be honest. I'll have to ask my doctors more about that, but they will probably say complications would likely be still rare for me. I'm guessing I might have a slightly higher chance of neurological problems or infections away from the original site, but I'm really not sure.

 

I think what's more likely is that I would have continual outbreaks, or more than most people. Which would then have implications emotionally, socially, and sexually. Hard to separate the physical and emotional at a certain point.

 

I might not have more outbreaks, too. It's entirely an unknown. The unknowns here are what's got me fearful.

 

How much I'll be affected, in what parts of my body, if at all, and whether if he's not a keeper, that'll further hurt my dating chances (and, would I infect someone else in the future).

 

I think the main thing is, aside from my less-usual health concerns, what have been the experiences of others dating and having relationships with this situation (one partner has it and the other doesn't), actually or hypothetically. How people feel about going into such a situation.

 

I wonder how many people catch it from their partner in the real world after enough time goes by, and even if they took precautions?

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TOV, even though I do agree that a large percentage of the population carries it, a lot of whom never even break out (or very rarely), so it's not a big deal to them. In your individual situation, it will be more detrimental than most given that you have health concerns and weaker immunity.

 

I think while considering the fact that you don't often meet people you hit it off with, you also need to consider a lot of relationships don't work out within the first 6 months. So it's really up to you to weigh up the risk and reward.

 

Also since it's a LDR, it's hard to really know the compatibility until you have been able to spend a substantial amount of time together (more investment, more risk).

 

Considering all this, I think I would give it a pass.

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TOV, I don't think what we think or what our experiences were really matter here. I think it's safe to say that most of us have been with a carrier of HSV/HPV at some point in our lives, and some of us got infected, some didn't, some don't yet know, but even if we all said it was no big deal and there were no major repercussions, would it really make you feel better? The fact is, we don't know how *your* body will react if you get it, or even IF you'll get it. You don't know either. Plus, since you are so apprehensive about contacting this infection, will you ever be able to truly relax, having it constantly at the back of your mind? What good would a nice romantic set-up one evening be, if all you would be able to think about is "is he shedding?", "is there any spot around his mouth?" and then you'd spend the next few days checking up on him to see if he'd gotten an outbreak...

 

I don't blame you for feeling the way you are, nobody *wants* an infection, especially you, with an immune-compromised system. On the other hand, yes the number of quality men one can meet is diminishing as we age, so if you find a good one, you do your best to keep him.

I can't advise one way or another, because this is a very personal choice. The only advice I can give is to just try and picture the future in detail (your dates, getting intimate) and decide what would prevail in your mind - the fear of acquiring the infection or the happiness of being with someone you match with very well. You will always have to factor in that things may not work out, of course, but only you can decide if it's a risk you're willing to take. We can tell you dozens of success stories, but that wouldn't mean yours would end up the same way; we could tell you horror stories too, but yours may end up being a happy one. The point is, nobody knows, so it all comes down to what's stronger in your mind: the fear of infection or the desire to date this man who can potentially be a good match.

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How many thousands of miles away does the guy live?

 

That's the barrier I'd address first. Putting physical risk aside for the moment, how would you go about developing this relationship with a stranger who has no cold sores? How often can you budget to fly out to meet him halfway or to visit his city or town, and how often can he fly to see you?

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You are welcome.

 

However, you must realise that you are posting on a forum with the general publics advice. Not a forum of medical background.

 

If you truly seek advice on a social background then you need to post without your medical history and the implication of that.

 

If your immune suppression simply means you are more likely prone to catching the infection as opposed to potential life threatening then you are in the same boat as everyone else. And if that's the case you have done far too much wiki investigation.

 

So, what actually is the situation here?

 

Medical or social?

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Given the distance and the chance of infection, although you may have connected well, I personally would find the two issues a big enough problem that I would consider giving it a pass. I would probably continue the friendship, but the possible problems just seem more than they're worth.

Who wants to travel that far to get sick and then not even be able to see the person on a regular basis?

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I feel the ops revelation about the consequences of herpes has been enough to scare off this so called potential lover so the distance is irrelevant now.

 

This is what I meant by the op needing to conduct conversations more locally. She may have mentioned her auto immune disease to this guy but he didn't realise the impact him having HSV 1 has in her, which many have and don't feel the need to disclose.

 

Op, if your intent is to move from the area you live in, I don't think the choice of where you move should be based on who and where the person you are chatting to lives. Perhaps you should make the move before you engage in online dating again.

 

You are investing too much time and effort into guys you may not connect with in person. And worrying about things that are only a mere maybe.

 

You were going to pay and travel to see this guy who has now flaked on you.

 

Blame the herpes chat if you want to, but it is a simple example of how uninvested he was.

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I've had oral herpes since I was four years old. I don't believe I have passed it on to any one in all these years, as I do not kiss when I have an outbreak.

 

Have you spoken to a doctor about this? You said that he gets them every few months, then why has he not considered medication to keep the disease under control?

 

 

Lastly, why is he not traveling to you?

 

Honestly, my biggest concern would be this long distance thing. I don't know how you can get to know someone , so far away.

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Op, if your intent is to move from the area you live in, I don't think the choice of where you move should be based on who and where the person you are chatting to lives. Perhaps you should make the move before you engage in online dating again.

 

Yep. If you're open to a move, do it for yourself--not a LDR. It makes no sense to build a fantasy and try to move yourself into it. Move to where you'd otherwise want to live, and if this leads to a more fertile love life, that's the icing.

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Your apprehension is understandable since it is contagious and he seems a bit uninformed. The fact that he unhid his profile is also disconcerting. Do you think he felt rejected?

Tentative plans have been made to meet this summer (which would require me to travel), .he mentioned that he breaks out in oral cold sores. Since he told me this, I have been dealing with a lot of apprehension and ambivalence. I noticed that he un-hid his profile today.
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I could live with those risks, if it weren't for this: that even when an infected person is not having an active outbreak, and even if they are not experiencing the pre-outbreak symptoms (tingling, burning, etc.), which are the times it is most contagious, the skin can shed the virus and infect someone else at any time. This is called "asymptomatic viral shedding," and I've read wildly different statistics on how frequent that can be -- anywhere from 6.6% of the time to 20% of the time, in between outbreaks. In a couple of studies I reviewed, even when someone is taking suppressive anti-viral medication, such as Valtrex, viral DNA has been found to be shedding on the skin, which means those are contagious times.

 

I applaud you for your efforts to educate yourself on HSV. However, your numbers are off. Please see below. In the end, I don't think it will matter. Based on your health condition, you most likely will not move forward with him.

 

By avoiding sex during an active outbreak, chances of virus transmission are 4% a year (Terri Warren, RN, NP – WebMD). Yes, per year, not sexual session. In the study that this is based off, couples were reported to have sex more than 5 times a month. Over 60% of the couples did not use condoms.

 

So if we look at the findings at the frequent end of the scale we would divide this figure by 120 (12 months x 10 sexual encounters per month). This makes the possibility of spreading the virus during any sexual encounter .0003%, or 1/3,000 (.04 / 120 = 0.00033333333333).

 

If also using condoms or anti-viral drugs, it cuts those already-staggering odds in half to about 2% a year. The possibility of spreading HSV on any given encounter would then become 1/6,000. To put this in perspective, you have a better chance of literally dying in a motor vehicle accident tomorrow on your way to school or work (1/9,000), although, surely this “risk” won’t stop you from driving. 1 in 9,000… driving seems pretty safe, doesn’t it? The fact that you will still drive your motor vehicle (or ride in cars) after reading this article is proof that you agree.

 

It’s cool, though, because you’d be right. Driving is pretty safe. Just remember: having a knowledgeable HSV+ partner is safer. If you’re not scared to drive, you are agreeing to this by default.

 

With the use of both simultaneously [condoms and anti-viral drugs], it cuts the number in half once again: a mere 1% chance of transmitting the virus per annual basis. On any given sexual encounter, we’re now entertaining a “risk” of 1/12,000. You now have better odds of winning an oscar, provided you’re in the industry 😉 (1/11,500). Do you plan on writing your award’s thank-you speech anytime soon?

 

Didn’t think so.

 

Simply put: 99% odds are excellent. If you had a 99% chance of winning the lottery, would you buy a ticket? You’d be crazy not to. There’s no arguing with that.

 

Therefore, considering that the only (truly) guaranteed thing in life is death, 99% odds are as solid as it gets. 96% is pretty assuring as well. Plus, people that are aware of their HSV+ status generally tend to notice even the mildest of symptoms, including prodrome symptoms. Because of this, they are much more likely to recognize when an outbreak is about to occur, and can then inform their partner in time to knock transmission rates down to 1-4% per year by abstaining from sex temporarily.

 

For females, the chances of contracting HSV are slightly higher, but not by much. Ideally, we’re looking at about 98% prevention instead of 99% (“risk” is doubled because of increased point of contact). Hardly a significant difference overall, though.

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Hey TOV,

 

I have the genital form and the oral form (one innocently caught as a child.. the other obviously not..!), and I have to say suppressive treatment is excellent. I have anxiety and tend to be prone to outbreaks, but the suppressive medication keeps it at bay with no long term health implications.

 

I have a friend who is also has issues with her immune system and caught genital herpes from her boyfriend, however it has to be noted that he was not on any medication and although he had symptoms he unfortunately didn't get himself checked and didnt take any precautions. She has had a bad time with controlling her outbreaks though it did get better over time.

 

As I take suppressive medication and I'm healthy I've never passed it on - it just takes a bit of help and looking after yourself and of course due diligence when you do feel a tingle and not having sex.

 

Herpes is generally not a big deal, though of course those of us that do have it wish we didn't! But I can totally understand your thinking carefully about it since you have existing health issues that may cause you to catch it easier. Consider also how long he's had it - studies have shown that if someones had it for a long time the frequency of asymptomatic shedding is reduced so it's also something to consider.

 

Good luck with whatever you decide! Difficult when you've actually met someone that you like I know! All he can do is take responsibility, and all that you can do is look after yourself and make the best decision for you. Why not meet up with him a few more times before you make a concrete decision? After all, you may not even want to go there.. lol!

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Hey guys, thank you so much for the thoughtful answers -- a few of you focused on exactly what I was looking for, many thanks. I hope you hang in here for my follow up, and a couple of questions to your posts, specifically. Purusha and Live-N-Learn, and a few others, please keep tuned!

A couple of general points:

 

-- There were two things I mentioned in my OP that I felt to be peripheral issues, but not entirely irrelevant.

 

1. It is not totally inconsequential that I might contract the virus more readily than the average person from a partner, as well as not be able to fight it off as easily once I have it (so, more outbreaks). This would make my own life more difficult and painful, but it could also limit intimate activity with a partner moreso, and put him at more risk (and as stated before, I have a few other limitations so a partner would have to work around those as well.) It would just put that much more stress on any relationship, especially in the beginning and these revelations are coming out.

 

2. Forming and keeping an LDR is difficult, by itself. I deliberated about even mentioning it, because I didn't want to take the subject off-course. I included it because I knew the thread would yield skewed responses without that bit of info. However, I don't feel that this question is a significant determinant in how I view the herpes issue. Managing an LDR without herpes in the picture is something I've done, and am ready to do again. So while it's far from an ideal situation, and it's plan B for me, the logistics of how we will commute to see eachother is beyond the scope of this thread (there are many complicated issues involving my moving, why I'm dating like this, etc.), for my purposes and concerns here.

 

So I only mention those issues for some additional context, but want the emphasis of the dialogue to revolve around these facts:

If you are an informed couple (or person), you know that this virus sheds at random times even when your partner is not symptomatic. No one knows exactly when those times are. If it's oral herpes, it can become genital herpes if the person is shedding when they give you oral sex. Experts advise using barrier methods to reduced herpes infection, even on such days (so, all the time, indefinitely). This means you will either be using a dental dam or condom every time you receive oral sex from an infected partner, whether they have lesions or not -- IF you are following the advice given by sex educators, who say this would be observing "safe sex" practices. You can cut your risk of shedding IF the infected partner takes DAILY suppressive medication, but there is some chance that they may not want to keep taking medication for life or may not tolerate it too well (it's generally well-tolerated, from my reading, but can come with side effects). Even then, it's not 100% foolproof.

 

There is no barrier for the mouth however, and so kissing would always carry some risk when there are no apparent signs.

 

No relationship comes with a guarantee. You may find after 6 months that it falls through (as notalady pointed out), or 2 years in (the magic number, in my experience) and by then, you've become intimate and possibly infected.

 

So given all those things, putting aside my 2 less typical issues (distance, immunity), knowing those facts, what are your views? Experiences? Fears or lack of? Willingness about starting a relationship which has as many good things as questions attached, so iffiness that is par for the course with dating, given these risk elements?

 

Would you all just go for it? Yes, I'm asking you to sort of compartmentalize my own special circumstances, while still giving your own personal response, if that is possible.

 

 

 

Based on my research, there are a lot of couples without my atypical circumstances concerned enough to pepper the internet.

 

I just wanted to post where I'm "notalone", in this community about it.

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Hmm... I think for me it would come down to how connected I feel to that person, whether I saw it as something that potentially had a future, and how much I trusted them - all those things in place, I'd talk about it openly, make sure we were all doing what we needed to (ie, any necessary medication, being open about when a tingle was coming on etc) and I probably would. I don't often get connections with people in a romantic sense though so I guess that makes any I do make more valuable to me, so it depends how much of a, er, for want of a better word... 'market' you have!

 

I mean, I guess I come with more understanding as the medical profession do tend to do the whole 'there's always a risk.. it's not 100%' thing, which is only sensible as of course there'll always be a risk with stuff like this, but it does then tend to make it scarier for people as you're not focussing on the high percentage chance that you won't contract it given proper care, but the very small percentage you have on the 'what if' scale.

 

So, what I'm trying to say is that I'd balance the practical with the emotional - how do I feel about the person, connection etc and if I'm happy with that, what can I do to make sure that the chances of contracting anything are reduced and we can enjoy the relationship?

 

Hope that's helped!

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