The other day I received a message on Grindr that I found disturbing. I know what you’re thinking, “of course you did, it’s Grindr.” However it wasn’t one of those typical messages and in what I presume was a first for the app there wasn’t a penis anywhere to be seen.
Since most seem to use the app for hookups I have listed my positive herpes status front and center. In reply to my warm greeting they wrote back, “sharing your herpes status seems extreme when there are so many treatments that make it untransmittable.”
Abrupt? A little. My initial message said nothing about herpes. It was about relationships and the emotional aspect of waking up with someone in the morning (a response to her profile). To begin a conversation by ignoring my message and delivering a critique is a dick move for sure but that is beyond the scope of what I want to talk about.
The key issue at hand is about revealing your positive status. You can choose to do this whenever you would like so long as it is prior to any activity that might risk transmitting herpes to someone else. Unfortunately, that means activities using your mouth for folks whose infections could surface orally and your deliciously naughty bits for those where it could surface genitally.
So let’s get to their claim.
To be sure, there are antiviral drugs out there but there isn’t a single company advertising anywhere that their product will render herpes noncommunicable. The only way to say that definitively is if a drug actually eliminated the virus. This would be a groundbreaking claim as nothing has been able to do anything other than manage herpes to this point in time.
Viral shedding is a possibility and so far it doesn’t seem like anyone knows definitively when this is or isn’t occurring, just that it can occur. So while the risk certainly drops when on antivirals, there is no way to say with certainty that herpes is noncommunicable in any state of activity or dormancy.
If we look critically at someone who feels it isn’t necessary to reveal that they carry a communicable disease to an intimate or sexual partner we have to ask why. Why would someone choose not to reveal this?
After all, disclosing this status doesn’t mean you won’t find someone and it doesn’t even mean you will never have sex again. Trust me on that point. However, it does probably mean that some people will decide to skip the opportunity to date or have sex with you because of it.
It’s herein that lies the crux of hiding a positive status. People don’t want to disclose their positive status because they know that it will thin out the number of people willing to have sex with them. They want to have sex and since they already have herpes there is no further risk to them (except for other sexually transmitables). All that’s left now for them is to not care about their sexual partners.
I can hear them now. “It’ll be okay. They won’t get it.” Allow me to say that we most certainly can get it and there are no altruistic reasons for hiding your positive status, only selfish ones.
There’s a lot of reasons the United States is experiencing a resurgence in the reported incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and infections. One of them is surely that someone decides it isn’t worth telling the people with whom they have sex. We are living in increasingly selfish times.
The one thing I think about when my mind drifts through the how and why of herpes is “I wonder if the person who gifted me this wonderful little critter knew ahead of time?” I don’t regret my choices. I may have made each of them exactly the same all over again, even if I knew one or more of my partners had herpes. Herpes for me is not a life changer, it’s just something that can happen.
However, even though I’ve made peace with it, there was a time when I would have been extremely upset to find that the person who gave me herpes knew their positive status and hid it from me. If someone suspects or knows they have herpes and conceals it from sexual partners then that is a reprehensible act. I would feel horrible if an informed partner contracted herpes while with me. The grief I would feel from giving it to an uninformed partner would be worse yet; a moral atrocity that would haunt me for the rest of my days.
Hiding a positive status from someone where sex is eminent is violating the very notion of free and informed consent.
If you have herpes then you owe your partners the right to choose. Those of us with a positive status don’t have the right to make decisions for another person’s body and health. This is a matter of autonomy that no one should intrude upon.
Personally, I want my partners to know that I respect them enough to help them experience the freedom, even the power, not just to choose but to walk away from the relationship if they want. If they do leave then we obviously weren’t a match. If they stay then I know I mean enough to them to be worth the chance. There is value in both outcomes.
There’s something to be clear about at the close of this article which is that informing a partner doesn’t make you saintly. This is just what people should be doing for one another. Choosing to sidestep the act of doing another person harm is the bare minimum of what being a decent person entails. It’s just that there are so many self-absorbed folks out there that those of us with a modicum of empathy and respect shine by comparison.
Be decent and share your status.