The HSV we each have is quite similar, but every single individual with HSV is different, due to our very unique immune systems. Obviously, everyone’s feelings about HSV – or dating non-h – will vary just as widely.
There are certainly some who have dated non-h and not spread it. But why? More precautions? Better immune system? Partner’s immune system is better? Less shedding? Or maybe they did pass it; keep in mind, 80%+ of those who acquire show no symptoms, so you (and they) would only realize that you passed it less than 20% of the time.
These are just a few of the variables you’d have to rule out before you could make any sweeping generalizations with any accuracy.
Risk is a choice… and it honestly isn’t our own choice; it’s our partner’s. All we can do is make sure they are aware of the risks. These aren’t just the risks of sleeping with you; they’re the risks out there if they sleep with anyone at all. The difference is that being with you, they’re with someone who is aware and presumably, you’re someone who takes more precautions.
Anyone who sleeps with someone with HSV should be willing to get HSV to be with that person. Anyone who sleeps with anyone should be willing to risk getting HSV and any number of other diseases in order to be with that person. To pretend that this risk isn’t there – at all times, for everybody – is incredibly naive. There is no sexual contact without risk of acquiring something. Any testing, prophylactics, etc are an attempt to minimize, but cannot eliminate, those various potential risks.
There is much miscommunication between doctors and patients. To borrow on one member’s statement, “If you don’t get outbreaks, you do not have Genital Herpes” is actually a true statement. You DO have Herpes Simplex… and you CAN transmit it, but you don’t have ‘Genital Herpes’. Let’s explain that:
Genital Herpes is the name of the outbreak; the Genital Ulcer Disease caused by the Herpes Simplex virus. We throw around the word “Herpes” like it all means the same thing, when it truly could mean many things, including 8-9 different viruses and all the possible complications they may cause.
So when doctors tell people their tests say they’ve been exposed to HSV-1 or HSV-2, they’re actually saying they’ve acquired the virus(es). The patient may not be experiencing cold sores(oral herpes) or genital herpes from them, but they do have HSV. And we know from research that between 10-20% of people with HSV 1 or 2 experience the actual actual recognizable symptoms (sores). Nothing to do with the virus itself; just their individual immune systems and genetics (a gene has been identified which makes people more predisposed to outbreaks, although those arent’ the only people who get outbreaks; there are more variables than that).
There’s certainly room for better communication between doctors and patients, as well as better communication between people and their prospective partners. By about age 25, any prospective partner probably has HSV of some form and probably doesn’t have any idea (it’s around 40-45% in teens). Keeping this in mind, we think it’s best not to focus on your herpes (“confessing” your herpes and begging someone to love you anyway), but instead, to focus upon education and awareness about HSV. Realizing you may end up romantically involved with someone creates an opportunity to educate. For whatever reason, most people don’t even think about beginning to educate those around them until the 11th hour, when they’re about to sleep together and the pressure is REALLY on. Kind of like deciding to study on the way to the final exam. Not a great plan.
It also pays to keep in mind when having the talk and educating partners that even if they did acquire the virus, there’s an ~80% chance that they’d be one of the ones who never noticed any symptoms. We know a lot of people completely disregard this very critical point when discussing risk with prospective partners and it’s probably one of the most important things they could possibly mention. It’s utterly foolish to assume that any partner will end up just like you; the odds are 4:1 that they won’t, even if they do happen to acquire the virus.
Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more comfortable you are speaking about HSV and the more you can educate. The more you can speak about it and educate others, the more comfortable everyone will be with the human reality that is HSV and the risks associated with it. It’s perfectly normal to acquire HSV: nearly every human being does at some point in their lives. It’s endemic. What really should become abnormal is knowing nothing about it. We truly need to get rid of that ignorance.
On a final note, never think you’re going to never have sex again and “save” someone from getting HSV. They’re going to get it somewhere anyway.
Just keep your mind and your options open. That girl you pass up because you have H is going to get H of some form anyway – 90% do eventually. The truth is, you’ll have “saved her” from nothing except getting it from you… and she may well prefer to have gotten it from you – in love – than from any other. It is, perhaps, better for you not to behave selfishly and they you leave such an important decision to her.
We’re not speaking of casual sex here, but if you should happen to meet someone whom you fall for… don’t reject them out of fear that they’ll reject you in the end. True love is precious, rare and worth every sacrifice.