Thursday, October 30, 2008

What's so embarassing about an STD, anyway?

The young, lovely and talented Julianne Hough of Dancing With the Stars has been in the news lately for revealing that she has endometriosis, which caused a cyst on her ovary that need to be removed. This will cost her a couple of weeks on the show, in order to recover, and she wanted her fans to know why she would be temporarily off the show.

I heard this story reported by Teresa Strasser on Adam Corolla's radio show. She then commented on the fact that some people have expressed that this is too much information, or Julianne should be embarrassed about talking about this. Teresa then something along the lines of "Why should she be embarrassed? It's not like it's an STD."

Thankfully, Teresa then said something really quick and sort of undecipherable like "and even if it was that would be ok," but Adam had already begun talking. Like she caught herself and realized that maybe, just maybe, having an STD or STI is also a perfectly valid and normal medical concern which people might be allowed to possibly talk about as well.

I have read that STDs are so common that they come in 2nd place as far as commonality behind the flu! Yet we can't talk about it?

One of the most common topics of discussion amongst humanoids seems to be complaining about our health. Whenever someone has the slightest ailment, they talk about it. They tell their friends, family and coworkers exactly what is going on. Even if it's slightly embarrassing and has to do with nether regions (yeast infections, hemorrhoids). Even if it is contagious (the flu). Even if it has to do with having sex (UTIs.)

Where do they draw the line? Here's what I've noticed. People don't seem to be comfortable talking about problems which are something caused by sex AND are potentially contagious. That combo, for whatever reason, is not generally socially accepted.

For example, I've never heard a casual mention of having caught syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes, even though they are common. We can talk about UTI's (usually caused by sex), but we CAN'T talk about type 2 genital herpes, even though 1 out of 4 women have it? We can talk about cold sores, but we can't talk about type 1 genital herpes, which are caused by the same exact virus that causes cold sores? (HSV1, which up to 60-90% of the population has depending on their age group.) Huh?

One exception - I've noticed it's okay to talk about having gotten an abnormal pap and having had pre-cancerous cells detected and removed, even though that means that they caught a dangerous strain of HPV, a common STD. I have even heard more than one coworker give this as a reason for being out for a few days. (I suspect I would never hear of a coworker being out for a few days because of a primary herpes outbreak.) Maybe this is just because people didn't know for a long time that HPV was the cause of most cases of cervical cancer, and that you get HPV from sexual contact? (since sexual contact is so BAD and all.) Or maybe it's because it is so common that it is just accepted, and people don't think of it that way. ...Or maybe, just maybe, they just don't care that HPV is an STD and they are starting to get over the attitude that STDs are somehow embarrassing and we need to hide away and never talk about having had one.

Ironically, some strains of HPV cause genital warts rather than cancer, but it would be a cold day in hell before I walk into work and hear a coworker complaining of having genital warts. It's kind of strange to think it's okay to talk about cancer, but not warts.

People don't talk publicly about these things because of puritanical attitudes still deeply ingrained in society. But I want you to know it does NOT mean that other people aren't getting STDs. You don't have to feel awkward when one ignoramus makes some stupid comment or joke about STDs. Chances are very, very high that most people who are laughing along are just doing so so they won't stick out or be suspected of having actually had one, or having one. People have sex. They get STDs. They are treated and cured, or managed. Just like any other infection or disease that people get. And that's that. It doesn't mean they are having sex with everyone they meet. You don't have to have sex with everyone you meet to get an STI. It only takes one person, and a bit of bad luck. (Remember, condoms don't totally prevent transmission of herpes or HPV, and these things can be had or spread with zero symptoms.) And many times, that one person is our monogamous partner. It doesn't make either of you a bad person. If you gave one another the flu, it wouldn't make you bad people, either.

Sex is everywhere we look, and people don't seem to be ashamed about having sex. I think they are more embarrassed or self-pitying when they are NOT having sex. So why are they so embarrassed about being exposed to things that come along with having sex?

People have been marginalized in many ways for many kinds of things, and are often gradually more and more accepted until it becomes strange to NOT accept them. I hope that in time, as people can finally face the fact that genital herpes is more common than diabetes, we will get real and just let it go, already. I don't need to talk about it with everyone I meet, but I certainly don't need to feel marginalized for it or that I need to be embarrassed. And I won't.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Would you take a 1% risk?

If there was an actual 1% risk of the following, would you still:
-cross the street despite possibly getting hit by a bus?
-go camping despite getting potentially mauled by a bear?
-have a child despite the chance of it being stillborn?
-eat lettuce despite the chance of getting a deadly dose of salmonella?

In all of these cases we are talking about DEATH. yet i'm guessing the answer is still yes... right?

If it's not, most would admit that there is a severe phobia coming into play.

So if there is a 1% chance that a woman with HSV2 (genital herpes) could transmit the virus to you per year, would you take that risk?

We are talking about a very common, mostly non-symptomatic, not recurring very often if at all, mostly mild, mostly dormant, and not even remotely life threatening virus. we are NOT talking about death.

I have yet to meet anyone in my life who would not take a 1% risk of ANYTHING, including death.

But it's somehow ok to not take the 1% risk of getting a mild fucking rash.

Think about it. How much of a wuss would one have to be?

Let's believe in science over stigma.
Knowledge over naivete.
Rational thought over out-of-proportion fear.
Reality over old wives takes and urban myth.

Let's just get real. If someone you love has herpes, please - enlighten yourself!



***
Want to know more about the 1% risk I am referring to?
An extensive study that was done shows that simple precautions can be taken to get the average risk of contracting HSV2 from a female partner who has it to a mere 1% per year of frequent sex.
Vice versa gender is 2%.
For more info on these studies, go to http://racoon.com/dcforum/tech/2824.html

Monday, August 25, 2008

Those Three Magic Words...

So your partnter has told you those three words... no, not "I love you" - not yet, anyway.

They have said "I have herpes."

What now? Well, good news - it's probably not nearly the unpleasant or scary scenario you're thinking of.

Let's say the scenario is a woman telling you she has it:

A quarter of all women you sleep with are carriers of HSV-2, whether they share that with you or not. Most are asymptomatic and therefore go undiagnosed, as herpes is NOT included in standard panel STD testing. If someone is telling you that she has HSV-2, it actually means that she is less likely to spread it to you, since she will be on the lookout for mild symptoms that those who are undiagnosed may miss. It also means that she may be likely to be using daily valtrex or other antiviral medication, and/or condoms to further lower your risk.

The official studies done by Valtrex show that per year of regular sex, the average female to male transmission rates are extremely low, even without using condoms or medication. (which doesn't really help their cause!) Here are the stats:

If ONLY avoiding sex during signs of an outbreak: 4% chance of transmission per year of regular sex
If ALSO using condoms OR daily antivirals: 2%
If using condoms AND daily antivirals: 1%

So, if using all three precautions, there is a 99% chance per year that the virus won't be transmitted! And if the meds and condoms aren't preferable, a 96% chance ain't too shabby either.

For ladies being told that their man has genital herpes, all the same info applies, except the transmission rates are about double. That means you can get your yearly risk of contracting HSV-2 from him down to 2% at the lowest. Also pretty darn low.

And if you're thinking that a lifetime of condoms or dental dams during oral sex is unappealing... those precautions are actually pretty unnecessary. HSV-2 does not prefer to live in the oral area, and there are very few cases of HSV-2 being transmitted that way. When it does manage to happen, the chance it would ever recur is slim to none. Not something worth worrying about in a relationship.

You may also want to ask your partner if she or he has had a type specific diagnosis. It is possible that their genital infection is actually HSV-1 (the extremely common cold sore virus), in which case the chances he or she would ever transmit it, orally OR genitally, is almost zero, even if you are in the minority of people not already infected with HSV-1. My blog has lots of postings about genital HSV-1 if you're looking for more info on that.

I hope this posting helps someone out there who is looking for answers. Genital herpes truly does not have to stand in the way of a relationship. For thousands upon thousands of happy and enlightened couples in the year 2008, it is entirely a non-issue.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Misinformation.

Sadly, misinformation is rampant when it comes to herpes. Many otherwise credible people are just not updated on herpes, I guess because it tends to be a taboo topic. A stigma. So it's another case where ignorance is bliss, even amongst doctors. And now The New York Times, who have recently published a comprehensive overview about genital herpes on their website which, sadly, is absolutely chock full of misinformation. Shouldn't this be illegal?

I'm going to clarify some of the misinformation in the article here on my blog, although I wish there was a way I could edit their site. It makes me sad that when newly diagnosed people, or those who have a new love interest diagnosed with it, go to google this virus, they will find lies on otherwise credible websites.

Women have an 80 - 90% chance of contracting HSV-2 after unprotected sexual activity with an infected partner and are 4 times more likely to be infected than men.

This is only referring to a partner who is having an active, obvious outbreak. What person in their right mind would engage in sex with someone who has open sores on their genitals? Why isn't it mentioned that there is only a 8% chance PER YEAR that a woman will become infected if she just avoids sex during outbreaks? Those odds are lowered to 4% if a condom is used OR if the man is on daily suppresive meds, and down to 2% of both of those precautions are taken. Again, that's PER YEAR. a very, very small risk. (And those numbers are halved when talking about female to male transmission!)

Shedding of genital HSV-1 is less common than with HSV-2, but transmission obviously still occurs, as evidenced by the rising prevalence of genital HSV-1.

Grrr. Actually, genital HSV-1 is almost always transmitted via someone's oral cold sores. The source of GHSV-1 is VERY RARELY another person with GHSV-1. I know it would be easily assumed that the cause of GHSV-1 is GHSV1, especially when the New York Times is assuming such, but it's not. It's cold sores.

Pregnant women who are infected with either herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) or herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) genital herpes have a higher risk for miscarriage, premature labor, retarded fetal growth, or transmission of the herpes infection to the infant while in the uterus or at the time of delivery.

It would have been nice to mention that neonatal herpes is EXTREMELY RARE. It is almost always caused by a brand new infection - in other words, if you are 9 months pregnant and JUST contracted genital herpes. If you already have it, the only risk is if you happen to be having an outbreak at the time of delivery. This can be almost 100% prevented from happening with medication. But if it still does, a C-section would prevent transmission from occuring. Therefore, the only herpes threat to a baby would be an incredibly stupid doctor who is ignoring a blatant herpes outbreak. Since a quarter of all women carry genital HSV-2 and many others carry genital HSV-1, and women are not even TESTED for it when pregnant, it is safe to say that this is not much of a concern.

Not least among the damaging effects of genital herpes is its impact on the social and emotional life of patients. In one survey of patients with herpes, 82% felt depressed, and 75% were worried about rejection. Over 25% had suicidal thoughts. In nearly 80% of the respondents, the disease had a profound effect on their sexual lives. The patient must notify sexual partners, past and present, about their condition, a deeply humiliating experience. Guilt and anger are common emotions, and relationships may be shattered.

Does this article somehow know better than those with herpes do as to how they should be feeling? The statistics which are quoted here are most likely from a group of very recently diagnosed people, who are still uneducated, fearful, and buying into the irrational stigma. But once one gets educated and sees firsthand how little this will affect their lives, the reality is not nearly as harsh as is being painted here. It is also wrong to assume that it is "deeply humiliating" to tell others. Personal, and possibly a little embarassing, sure. But having genital herpes means that you share the same virus as 25% of the population. It also means you have had sex at least once in your life. What is humiliating about that?

The bottom line is that when it comes to herpes, we must cut through a lot of bullcrap to get to the truth. People say "talk to your doctor" when it comes to medical matters. Unfortuantely, my doctors gave me so much misinformation about herpes, I don't even know where to begin. One told me you can't get it if you used a condom, another claimed that only 1 in 10,000 cases of genital herpes are type 1, and a third stated that since I have type 1 genitally, it will travel up and "disappear." And these are DOCTORS specifically trained in sexual health!

So, sure, you can talk to your doctor about herpes, but understand that many were last educated about it over 20 years ago, when less was known. Even those who were recently educated might have only gotten a brief textbook lesson on it. (Including relative who recently finished nursing school, actually gets cold sores, and had no idea that they could be transmitted to others genitally.) Do not take their word as the bottom line. And do not take what you hear from friends or read on the internet as the bottom line, because many of them are relying on inaccurate and outdated sources.

If you are newly diagnosed with genital herpes or just looking for ACCURATE information, I highly recommend:
http://www.westoverheights.com/freebook.html
www.racoon.com
www.herpesdiagnosis.com
www.ashastd.org

Friday, August 15, 2008

An "innocent childhood infection," or an STD?

Isn't it funny how "diseases" are defined by how they are aquired ONLY in the case of those sexually transmitted?

HSV1 (more commonly known as the cold sore virus) becomes an STD ONLY if one is infected with it genitally. (Meaning that one managed to be extra cautious or lucky, and avoided getting cold sores for their entire life - which made them susceptible to getting type 1 genitally as an adult. How ironic.)

Another thing that bugs me - why does it suddenly become a "disease" once transmitted genitally? I have never heard anyone refer to someone with cold sores as having a disease. And cold sores are the same exact virus, but recur much more frequently and are way more contageous than is someone with an HSV1 genital infection.

So why is it being defined simply on how it was transmitted, but only when it was done so sexually? When orally transmitted, we don't call it a KTD (kissing transmitted disease.) I know a small number of people also get it orally from sharing forks and cups and whatnot, but the majority get it from kissing, even if it's an aunt's innocent peck.

We don't call malaria or lyme disease ITDs (insect transmitted disease) or typhoid fever a FTD (feces transmitted disease.)

But we do need to forever label those who happened to aquire a common infection during, god forbid, a sexual scenario - no matter how "innocent" that scenario was, including between husband and wife?

I'm not buying into it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Posting revised

I completely edited the earlier posting Type 1 - To Tell or Not to Tell?
based on some new conversations I have had and knowledge I have gained. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Wake up call - Cold sores are sexually transmittable.

If you get cold sores on your mouth from time to time, chances are that at some point in your life, someone has mentioned to you that cold sores are actually herpes. They probably reassured you that, no, not that kind of herpes. You may have been led to believe that genital herpes are totally different, and are type 2 herpes, while cold sores are type 1.

While it is true that a case of genital herpes is commonly type 2, especially if the outbreaks are recurrent, a genital herpes outbreak can also be caused by type 1, a.k.a. the common cold sore virus. It is transmitted from the mouth of the person who gets cold sores, to the genitals of the person they give oral sex to.

For some reason, people are not being told that cold sores are sexually transmittable, not even by their doctors.

Cold sores are in their own category as far as STDs go, because they are not an STD, but they do have the potential to become one for someone else. This can happen even if the person giving oral sex is not having a cold sore at the time. (Herpes is a virus and can be contageous even when you're not having symptoms. Most people who have type 1 orally are contageous about 18% of the time.)

The majority of the population already has type 1 orally and is almost 100% immune to getting it on their genitals. This is because their body already hosts the virus, and has produced antibodies against it throughout the entire body. Most people are exposed during childhood, by relatives or by another child.

But the minority of the population who somehow manages to escape childhood without being exposed to this pesky virus have the potential to get type 1 orally or genitally as an adult.

Just because you have never gotten a cold sore, it does not mean that you don't already have type 1 orally. For some people, the virus just goes dormant and never causes a sore - you may have it and never even get a cold sore in your life. For others, it continually reactivates and causes sores on the mouth, especially after getting too much sun or when you have a cold or fever (hence the terms "cold sore" and "fever blister.")

For those infected genitally, most get an initial or primary genital outbreak soon after exposure, which may resemble a classic type 2 outbreak. But luckily, after that, most will never get another recurrence. The virus will go dormant and stay dormant, because type 1's home territory is the mouth. While type 1 can infect the genital area, it does not prefer to live there. (Despite that, some will get a recurrence about once every two years on average, while an unlucky few will get regular recurrences more similar to a pattern of type 2 herpes.)

The source of a genital type 1 herpes infection is almost always a person who gets cold sores on their mouth. Very rarely is the source someone else who has it genitally, since they are only contageous 0-5% of the time.

More than half of the population has type 1 herpes. It is estimated that more like three quarters of people have it by adulthood. And by age 50, a whoppping 90% have it.

So, if you get tpye 1 herpes genitally (GHSV1), you may feel that you are somehow dirty or tainted. The reality is, you are actually much less contageous than the majority of the population!

While people who get GHSV1 fret and freak out and worry about passing this virus on, those with cold sores usually carry on without a second thought. But they are actually the ones with a much higher potential to give someone an STD.

Even those who are aware of this usually remain too embarassed to bring it up to a new sexual partner.

So what the heck is the solution? If you have type 1 orally, you can't live in fear of giving oral sex. If you are type 1 negative, you can't live in fear of recieving oral sex. Most people are unwilling to use dental dams or condoms for oral sex, so it's a risk we take. If it happens to you, luckily GHSV1 is usually not recurrent, and is not highly contageous. So for many, it can be initially traumatic, but then becomes a non-issue.

It is no one's responsibility but your own to know about the risks and educate yourself about type 1 herpes. Understand that most people are not educated about it, so you need to be your own advocate. Consider having a talk about type 1 herpes with your partner, whether you have it orally, genitally, or not at all. Cringeworthy, but the right thing is not always the easiest thing.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I smell... Bullshit!

Read this blurb:

The Bachelor Producers Hit With Herpes Dilemma

The producers of The Bachelor have been floored by the amount of pretty women who don't get to woo series hunks - because they have herpes. A new report reveals a substantial number of single stunners were turned away from the most recent show's auditions after testing positive for herpes and other communicable diseases.

A show insider tells the National Enquirer, "Some of the best looking women have been told recently that they didn't pass the medical portion of the test due to herpes."


My reply:

Are there at least 4 or 5 producers working on The Bachelor ? THEN THE STATISTICS SHOW THAT AT LEAST ONE OF THEM HAS IT THEMSELVES. Morons.

It is time to grow up, people.

This procedure of screening out the women who have herpes for a TV show about dating is absurd, scary, and downright dangerous.

HSV2 can happen to absolutely anyone. 1 out of 4 women have it! Most have no symptoms and don't even know they have it. And the medical community, for bizarre and archaic reasons, doesn't encourage us to get tested if you have never had a symptom.

And yet THE BACHELOR has the right to???

I could see if they screened the women for herpes and other STDs, and then just required that they were open about it with the Bachelor when that time came. But eliminating them from the show altogether? A quarter of all women? WHAT?

So let me get this straight. We can't portray a few people dealing with herpes (or just an HSV2 diagnosis with no symptoms) in a normal and mature way on a tv show about dating and sex? Instead they are treating herpes as a non-issue, when in fact, a quarter of the women that the bachelor would meet in real life would have it?

Dare I say, it's almost as bad as screening out people of a particular race. No, you are not born with herpes, but it is something that happens to people as a result of normal human behavior. People don't choose to contract herpes. Last time I checked, having sex with at least one person in your life is expected of us, and what makes the world go round, actually. If you've done that, even if it's been protected sex, you've been at risk for getting herpes. Hell, I know a virgin who got it from another virgin - his cold sore was passed to her genitals. The herpes virus is simply part of existing in the twenty first century. It's the knowledge of knowing one has it that can empower us all, because then as a woman one can take the precautions and lower our partner's risk of contracting HSV2 to a measly ONE PERCENT PER YEAR.

I thought the Bachelor would do anything for love. But he won't even do THAT?

By continuing to pretend that herpes doesn't exist, we can all remain blissfully ignorant and the virus can continue to spread. Is that what we want? By continuing to pretend that those who do have HSV2 are all hiding under a rock somewhere and not dating, we can hold on to the belief that herpes will never, ever happen to us. UNTIL IT DOES.

I live in LA, I am not naive, I know that the last thing that a reality show usually portrays is anything close to reality. But when this kind of thing happens that is a direct insult to around a quarter of the population, and there is no public outcry whatsoever, it is time for the public to grow up, face reality, educate themselves, and evolve. GET TESTED. Only when people can see that it is their very own family members, their best friends, themselves even who are being discriminated against in this stupid way, will the real outrage will begin.

Just FYI, my anger here is not coming from my own ego. I personally would actually be allowed on the show, as I have type 1 herpes genitally. A blood test would only show that I am positive for type 1 herpes, which 80% of people would also test positive for, and it is assumed to be "oral cold sores." (Which are actually much more contagious than having it genitally like I do, and which are totally capable to becoming genital herpes through giving oral sex to someone else.) So in even thinking that they are capable of screening out all people with genital herpes, or who are capable of giving someone genital herpes, the producers are wrong.

Hey, I just had an idea! I should try out for and infiltrate the show, steal the bachelor's heart, and then at the final moment when he asks for my hand in marriage, tell him on national TV that I have genital herpes and the producer's tests didn't screen for it because it is type 1, the common cold sore virus!!! I would love to see the blood just absolutely drain from the producers' faces at that moment.

But there is no way in hell that The Bachelor doesn't already have HSV1 anyway, with all that making out going on.

The bottom line is, if The Bachelor is not mature enough to deal with the existence of HSV2 out there in the big bad world, and not knowledgable on how easily transmission can be prevented, he is not mature enough to be dating and having sex. That goes for everyone. Period.

The producers are doing a major disservice to humanity by denying us of this opportunity for growth.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Let me just say that one more time.

I got an STD from someone who does not have an STD.

I got genital herpes from someone who does not have genital herpes!

WTF?

(for new readers and those not in the know: cold sore, even when one is not currently present + oral sex = a form of genital herpes. which is what happened to yours truly.)

How do you like dem peaches?

Everyone loves a good True or False session!

All of the following statements are either True or False:

1) If you had genital herpes, you would know it, because you would get outbreaks.
2) You don't have to worry about asking your partner to get tested for STDs until you are ready to ditch the condoms.
3) It is safe to assume that non-promiscuous people who have been mostly in steady relationships do not have genital herpes.
4) If you have been married for 10 years and all of a sudden you come down with genital herpes, your partner must have cheated.
5) If you get genital herpes and go back and ask all your exes and no one has it, or never gave it to someone else, then someone is lying.
6) You cannot get genital herpes from someone who does not have genital herpes.

Ok, got your answers?

All of those 6 statements, believe it or not, are absolutely FALSE. Read on, this will be more exciting than Ripley's Believe it or Not!

1) If you had genital herpes, you would know it, because you would get outbreaks.
FALSE.
Although 20% of Americans have genital herpes (HSV2), only 2% are aware that they do. Huh? Here's why. 90% of those infected have either non-existent or not obvious symptoms. Only 10% of people who have genital herpes have obvious text book outbreaks. But even those who are completely asymptomatic can spread it to someone else, who can end up having obvious outbreaks. SO, if someone tells you they don't have any STDs, they actually have no way of knowing that unless they have gotten a type-specific HSV blood test. This test is not included in STD testing unless specifically requested. (A travesty on behalf of the healthcare system, which we can go into in another post.)

2) You don't have to worry about asking your partner to get tested for STDs until you are ready to ditch the condoms.
FALSE.
You do have to have the STD conversation before sex, even if you're using condoms. Here's why - genital herpes (and HPV) can be transmitted DESPITE condoms. They are viruses, and can be present on the genital area skin that the condom does not cover, even if the person is not having an outbreak. OK, so you're not having sex with someone if they have a visible outbreak, and you're using condoms, so if these two things aren't enough to prevent getting HSV2, what else can be done? Well, the person with HSV2 can take Valtrex daily, or one of the other anti-viral meds. It's a Godsend in preventing transmission (it's not 100%, but it is something like 97% effective, which is comparable to birth control pill rates.)

3) It is safe to assume that non-promiscuous people who have been mostly in steady relationships do not have genital herpes.
FALSE.
This stereotype is one that is hard to break. Sure, all STDs including herpes are going to be more prevalent amongst people who have had lots of sexual partners, since your risk of getting one increases with each new partner you have. But that does not mean that those who have only had one or only a few partners can't get it. So you only slept with one person in your life, but that person had an ex who had an ex who had HSV2. Get it?

4) If you have been married for 10 years and all of a sudden you come down with genital herpes, your partner must have cheated.
FALSE.
This is a common scenario. If your spouse is adamant that they did not cheat, they very well might be telling the truth. There are two reasons why. a) Your spouse could have had HSV2 for years, going back to before you were married, and have no idea they had it. And you can sleep together for years without it being transmitted to you (in many cases, it will never be transmitted.) b) You yourself can have had HSV2 for years, going back to before you were married, and had no idea you had it, but all of a sudden your first outbreak can be triggered by an unknown cause.

5) If you get genital herpes and go back and ask all your exes and no one has it, or never gave it to someone else, then someone is lying.
FALSE.
Again, someone can have it and not know it. But another common justification that people will use is that none of the other people they slept with ever got it. But that is not valid, because a) you are not going to transmit it every time you sleep with someone. As we discussed earlier, it is actually pretty hard to transmit. and b) they could have transmitted it to someone who showed no symptoms and still has no idea.

6) You cannot get genital herpes from someone who does not have genital herpes.
FALSE.
This is the biggest doozy for me. You CAN get genital herpes from someone who does not have genital herpes. WHAT? Yes, it's true. Someone who only gets cold sores (which, yes, is a form of herpes) on their mouth from time to time can transmit the herpes virus to you genitally when giving you oral sex, even if they are not having a cold sore at the time. This is what happened to me. Essentially, I got an STD from someone who did not have an STD. Awesome! In that case, you have genital HSV1, which is a different animal than HSV2. (For more on this, read the post following this one called Type 1 - to tell or not to tell?)

Still trying to wrap your brain around all this? Don't worry, you're not alone. Much of this info my be new to most people, because unfortunately, the info we need to know about herpes is just not out there. But I do have a feeling that studying up on these facts may be of a greater practical use for most of us than any of those calculus tests we sweated over back in the day.

Class dismissed!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Type 1 - to tell or not to tell?

(Revised.)

Is it necessary to reveal that you have had a type 1 genital episode, since the chances of transmission are so freakishly low? That's a very loaded question which can be hotly debated.

Do those with GHSV1 have more of an obligation to disclose than would someone who gets cold sores? If so, that would be more about stigma than actual risk, since those with cold sores are usually the source of the genital infection. They are contageous around 18% of the time from their mouth area, whether they are having a cold sore or not. Those with a genital type 1 infection are only contageous 0-5% of the time from their genital area, so they are very rarely the source of the infection. The way GHSV1 is almost always transmitted is just oral-->genital, during oral sex, by a person who gets cold sores.

So why aren't people who get cold sores freaking out that they have the ability to give someone an STD, but people who have that same exact virus genitally are, even though their risk to others is way less? Who knows. I guess that society encourages ignorance when it comes to cold sores. Abreva ads don't even so much as mention the word herpes, and doctors are encouraged to not mention the word herpes if a patient comes in with a cold sore. Let alone mention that their cold sore could give someone a mild form of genital herpes.

Yes, mild. Luckily when you get type 1 genitally, it is outside of its site of preference and therefore usually doesn’t thrive, so you have a primary episode but then the virus goes dormant. Unlike type 1 oral and type 2 genital, it very rarely if ever recurs or sheds, and so after some initial trauma it usually becomes pretty much a non-issue, for yourself and for the people you would want to avoid infecting.

Another factor is that the vast majority of the population already has type 1 herpes, so they have the antibodies and are immune. You can't give someone a virus they already have. It's similar to chicken pox, which is also a herpesvirus; once you have gotten it, you're not going to ever pick it up from someone again. With herpes, however, some people will get recurrences. It doesn't mean that they were exposed to the virus again, it means that the virus is reactivating in their body.

But that doesn't mean the unlucky minority aren't still out there. I had managed to somehow get through life without having been exposed to type 1, something I had never really pondered or thought about. But then, a guy I was seeing who wasn't even having a cold sore at the time gave me my first exposure to the virus, and even though we also kissed, the virus chose to infect me genitally when he gave me oral sex. I had an outbreak and went through a lot of trauma, because I didn't understand what had happened to me. I thought I was dirty and tainted forever.

Now I understand that I actually share the same virus that 90% of people have by the time they are 50. There was only a 10% chance that I would get through life and NOT pick up this virus. Just beause I got infected with it genitally doesn't make me any worse off than those who have it orally. Some may argue that it is actually better to have it genitally, since statistically the odds are that I will never pass it to someone else, and that I will never or hardly ever have a recurrence. And I will never have to experience getting cold sores smack dab on my mouth for all to see. Getting infected with type 1 genitally is almost like getting a vaccine against getting cold sores on the mouth! (although some people do get infected in both areas at the time of exposure, since their bodies haven't built up antibodies yet.)

In a perfect world, however, both those who have a history of cold sores AND those who have had a genital episode of type 1 will be open and discuss it before being intimate. But a conversation like that pretty much goes against all your instincts when it comes to how to behave in the bedroom, so no matter what our best intentions are, many will choose to not address it.

Whose burden is it to bring up this discussion, anyway? Shouldn't someone who believes that they don't have any STDs or viruses and wants to stay that way be asking questions as well? If they have sexual contact with someone without any kind of discussion beforehand, believing that a condom during intercourse is all it takes to be safe, then whose fault is it if they manage to get HSV? Knowing that the majority of the population is uneducated and doesn't even know that cold sores are actually causes by a herpesvirus, and they don't know if they have this virus or not, does the burden fall to those who do know, just because they took the time to get educated? Since not saying enough would cause an unneccesary alarm to go off in the other person's head, it would require quite a lengthy conversation and herpes lesson pre-sex. Is this really realistic? I wonder. Not even doctors choose to take on that burden, as they and the rest of society encourage herpes ignorance. So why should those who ARE educated have to swim against the current? Do we need a chalkbaord and pointer in our bedrooms?

I really don't know. I guess more than anything, I have gotten a wake up call. I am not "above" getting an STD just because I use condoms and am not a "slut." I don't have one night stands, I don't sleep with someone I barely know, I usually make someone I am dating wait. I am a good, educated person. But I am not above this. It is simply a virus. It doesn't reflect on anything about me, other than the fact that I have recieved oral sex in my life. I am a grown woman - what would you think if I had not? I have a common, non life-alterting virus that more people have than don't.

Since I know condoms don't protect from everything, and that the body doesn't test positive for HSV2 or HIV until around 4 months after exposure, am I going to demand that any guy I am with from now on waits 4 months and then gets standard STD testing along with an HSV type-specific blood test and an HIV test before we can be together? No, I'm not. Because that is just not realistic. But as long as I am educated and understand the risks, I can no longer feel like a victim. I can accept that with sex, as with anything, come risks. And I will do everything within reason to protect myself, but I will not let it take over my life.

Going through an episode of herpes on your boy or lady parts, however mild and unlikely to recur, is no fun for anyone. This whole drama I went through can be avoided by getting tested today to see if you are negative for HSV1 and therefore susceptible to getting it genitally. And while you’re at it, insist that all partners are tested as well, for both types of HSV and all other STDs, so you can know what precautions to use. Even though docors will tell you that HSV testing is unnecesary unless you have gotten an outbreak, I believe this is a decision you should be able to make for your own body. And for the well being of the body of the person you are having sex with. Some would argue that you should have full disclosure for those same reasons, no matter what type or where the virus lives or how low the risk is.

Take the bull by the horn and get educated. Sex ed and the mass media are not giving us the info we need. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Seriously.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don't mind me, I'm just reading a book.

So what if it happens to be called "Managing Herpes: How to Live and Love with a Chronic STD." ? All the cool kids are reading it.

Although a book called "How to Live and Love Without Getting a Chronic STD" would have been more useful at one point to most of those engaged in this particular riveting read, but alas...

"An increasing number of us understand how prevalent herpes is, but most, ironically, do not translate this information into a sense of personal risk."

That is so very true. Think about how often you hear people talking about their casual hookups and one night stands. It is highly unlikely that STD conversations that should have been had pre-hookup, were had. You hardly ever hear anyone worrying about contracting genital herpes from these kinds of encounters, when people are talking with their friends about them. Yet... in separate conversations and contexts, there are always those herpes jokey references which happen from time to time. It is so hypocritical, irrational and ridiculous.

But I guess until people are strong enough to "come out" about their GHSV positive status, those who have never had herpes symptoms will continue to assume that those who do are somehow weird or strange or dirty or somehow deserve it. They will continue to assume that they and/or their friends would never be the kinds of people who would have this virus. When that is so far from reality.

And on an exciting side note, Love in the Time of Herpes celebrates its first references out there on the world wide internets! People like us, they really, really like us!
http://dailybedpost.com/2008/06/love-in-the-time-of-herpes.php
http://www.racoon.com/herpes/ and click on "support"
http://www.noahdiamond.com/herpestonight-press.html
http://happyhealthyhip.blogspot.com/2008/06/sex-ed-grown-up-edition.html

For those of you who have been e-mailing me, thank you!! Please don't be shy, post a comment here on the blog, even if it's anonymous. Why? Cuz comments make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Support groups for peeps with herpes

A.k.a. "Herpeeps!" Thanks, Rajah. ;)

I never thought I would be the kind of person who needed a support group. But I am so over giving a crap about what kind of person I thought I'd be, or have turned out to be, or am. Blah blah blah. Who cares.

Despite the minimal effect having type 1 will most likely have on me, I went to a herpes support group on Tuesday night, to hear people's stories and to tell my own.

And it was a lot of fun, and most importantly, there were those cute little rolled up sandwiches, fresh fruit salad, and great brownies. Yum.

It's great to be around other people who have GHSV and to be able to talk about it out in the open. There were literally all ages and types in attendance, further emphasizing the fact that normal people of all walks of life get this virus. There was an adorable college aged couple, professionals who had come straight from work, a few retirees, and even a cute boy wearing Chucks who must have gotten spooked and took off after the first part of the meeting. (damn!)

Was the meeting run perfectly? No. There is, as with most things, room for improvement. But these people are volunteers, and bless their hearts for doing it at all. I'm just grateful that they are doing it, and grateful that the meetings are there for those who want to take advantage of them.

It's freeing to be talking about it with others who can relate. It was mostly GHSV2 but there were a few other GHSV1 as well. (The only person who has had a type 1 recurrence had one 5 years after her primary, and it's been 5 years since that one! yipeee!) We shared stories, laughed, cried (someone in the other group circle did, anyway), answered questions for one another... they pretty much had to drag us out of there at 10 o'clock.

I bought a book about GHSV, took a brownie for the road, and chatted with a new friend for a while outside before leaving. Good times at herpes meetings, I'm tellin' ya.

For info on your local chapter, call the national herpes hotline at 919-361-8488.

A final thought - If all of the people in LA who have genital herpes were at the meeting, there would have literally been millions of people there, right? With the right PR, this could be the hottest meat market in the city.

Just sayin.'

Sunday, June 22, 2008

And the plot thickens...

When I first got diagnosed, Planned Parenthood simply told me I had genital herpes. They didn't tell me much else, other than "use condoms." (I had been, and look where it got me.)

I was extremely confused and scared and knew this was never going to go away. In a few short seconds my entire life had changed and my faith in love, and good prevailing over evil, and virtually everything else was gone. I assumed my fate as old maid was signed, sealed and delivered. Basically, I prayed for sweet death.

Then I went home and cried, screamed, hid away for a while.

When I emerged from bedroom exile, which included a few additional doctors visits where again I was told a whole lot of nothing, I could barely look my friends in the eye. I felt like somehow I was a liar. Hiding my dirty secret, not worthy of being around fine, upstanding people anymore. I felt I wasn't "clean," no matter how much I showered.

One of my Planned Parenthood doctors had rolled her eyes and told me to "stay off the internet." So for a while I did that, pretending none of this had happened. But I could only pretend for so long. I needed to know more about what this thing was, and what it really meant for me. I needed to defy the eye roller, brace myself, and head back into the treacherous territory that is online herpes information. It includes a lot of bad jokes, misinformation, icky pictures, and finger pointing, especially at a few select unfortunate celebrities.

Luckily I quickly found HHP, the Original Herpes Homepage. http://www.racoon.com/herpes/
(I related to the visual of a racoon, hiding out in the darkness, scavenging for tidbits when no one is looking.) Its message boards are full of the most unbelievably patient and knowledgeable people, answering each other's questions, keeping tabs on one another, and providing helpful article links and info, along with insight after insight to get us through the dark moments and celebrate our victories. People who could relate to one another and didn't hesitate to discuss the most TMI kinda health problems. I immediately felt comforted and like less of a freak. It was like a place of refuge for me.

But most importantly, I became informed. I realized that this truly is just a virus, and an incredibly common one at that. Lots of nice, normal people get it.

And I learned that while gential herpes is traditionally thought of as being type 2, it can also be HSV type 1.

That's right; if someone gets cold sores on their mouth, the virus can be present on their mouth at any time, with or without symptoms. And if they go down on you, and you are in the minority of the population that have somehow never previously been exposed to the "cold sore" virus, their HSV1 can infect you down below.

Having this type of genital herpes is usually pretty different from having type 2. And it's also different from having type 1 on your mouth. While the person with type 1 on his mouth will probably continue to go on to transmit the virus to others (in both sexual and non-sexual scenarios), the chance that those he has infected genitally will go on to transmit to others is very slim, because the virus doesn't prefer to live down there and it doesn't shed from or recur in that area very often, if at all .

So, months and months after my primary outbreak, months of complete and utter stress also caused by outside factors going on at the time, I never had any signs of a second outbreak. I was wondering if I was one of the lucky ones who just don't get that many outbreaks.

But it slowly dawned on me that this could be a type 1 infection, and not a type 2, since I hadn't been given a type specific test when the OB was happening. (baaaad doctors.) I didn't want to let myself hope too much, because I couldn't deal with the letdown that was inevitable. What were the chances I would get a break when fate just seemed to have it in for me lately? So I put it off for a while, and went on a long trip. When I came back I finally went in for it a blood test, I was gently treated like I was delusional and repeatedly told that genital herpes is type 2. One doctor told me that having type 1 genitally is "1 in 10,000." Which I knew was wrong, since I had come across tons of people on the boards who have GHSV1. I told him that he might want to update that statistic and check out some new information on herpes. He grudgingly agreed to give me a blood test, but only at a different PP clinic, because the one I was at "frowned upon" blood tests for herpes. WTF? A sexual health and family planning clinic FROWNING ON GIVING HERPES TESTING???

I think maybe he only agreed so he could see my positive type 2 diagnosis and say "told ya so."

But after a couple of weeks with no phone call from the clinic, I absentmindedly picked up a letter I had thrown into the bills pile a couple of days earlier, and recognized the address as being from the PP clinic where I had gotten the blood test. I tore it open and braced myself.

And saw that I had only tested positive for herpes type 1.

Now. I had come to terms with thinking I had GHSV2, knowing that the transmission risk to others was minimal with precautions, and I was pretty much at peace with it. But learning that it was type 1 and that this would most likely affect my life a lot less than I originally had been lead to believe was like a huge weight off my shoulders. I literally felt like I had been born again, and taught a huge lesson that I was now free to learn from rather than just suffer from.

I know I still have a responsibility to discuss this with future partners, as do those who have gotten a cold sore orally.

Now, I know it is my duty and yours, if you're reading this, to educate one another about what is the fastest growing STD in the country, GHSV1.

If you have a history of cold sores, don't give someone oral sex until you discuss the risks and they get a blood test. Chances are your partner will be in the majority of the population that already has HSV1 antibodies and the risk to them will be virtually zero. But there's always a chance that, like me, they are in the minority and are susceptible to getting your cold sores in a place where the sun don't shine, even if it will probably just happen once.

If you are someone who has never been tested for HSV and are recieving oral sex now or in the future - and hopefully, you are! - get a blood test ASAP. Find out if you are at risk for getting GHSV1.

Planned Parenthood and most OB-GYNS do NOT include HSV in their standard panel STD testing. The reason they give is that most of the population will test positive for type 1 any way, and if you have type 2 but are asymptomatic, you really don't want to know, do you? But these reasons are outdated, archaic, foolish, and a health risk to you and to society. Specifically request to GET TESTED FOR HSV and insist that your partners do. Because when it comes to something that is chronic, prevention is priceless.

If you have type 1 genitally, you could still get type 2 on top of it. So find out about your partner's status and take the proper precautions.

I'm not sure exactly what my next move will be, but along with continuing to try to erase the GHSV stigma of both types in general, I want to somehow start a movement to get people specifically educated about the existence, prevalence, and risk of getting GHSV1. Planned Parenthood needs to send its doctors the memo; genital herpes is not only type 2. Everyone who comes in with a primary oubreak needs to have a TYPE SPECIFIC test from the get go, so they can know how to proceed.

Here are some more articles about GHSV, which HHP links to:
http://www.racoon.com/herpes/main/hsv1-2.html
and
http://blogs.webmd.com/genital-herpes-intimate-conversations/2006/02/type-i-herpes-transmission.html

Let's spread the word... not the virus.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Life is like an STD...

...You never know which one you're gonna get!

So run, Forrest, run! You're lucky that one unprotected night with Jenny, who we all know had her fun in the time of free love, only resulted in a baby.

Isn't it annoying how sex is portrayed on TV and movies?? You don't realize how unrealistic it is until it's too late. Everyone is just running around banging each other with no consequences, other than pregnancy scares here and there. Or a funny and conveniently curable syphilis storyline.

I did everything by the book. I and actually always had a fear of contracting an STD. I would obnoxiously ring off the statistic to my friends, "you know, 1 in 4 people have an STD, and condoms don't protect you from everything." I remember one time this one girl gave me a funny look. She probably wanted to say, "honey, shut up and fuck off!" She should have. But god forbid any of us can imply that we have been affected by an STD.

I hardly ever have casual sex. But this one night, I did, and not with a random stranger by any means. I had a lot of stress going on in my life. I'm young and single and thought, hell, I'm an adult, you only live once, and the time and person was right. We used a condom. Isn't this what people do?

4 days later I was at Planned Parenthood in tears, with a virus in my body that's never going to go away. My body, that I have always taken care of so well, that my mother took care of so lovingly before that. And one night of (protected!!!) sex, and I've thrown it away. (I haven't really, but that's how it felt at the time.)

(I recently read about some guys one time taking their friend to PP, and they were cheering that he "only" had syphilis. The author was pointing out how ridiculous and sad it was. But sorry, honey, I would have celebrated too if it was something curable that I could treat, learn a lesson from, and leave in the past.)

Magazines tell you all about how to avoid getting STDs. But what happens if you do everything right, you're not promiscuous, and you're careful, and you still manage to get one? What then? They never seem to address that.

I guess the mags and movies don't show the restrictions some of us have in life. How many characters are in a wheelchair and have to make sure a ramp is available at a store they're going to? How many have to check their blood sugar before they head off for a lunch date? How many have to talk to their new love interest about having GHSV before they can seal the deal?

None. But this ain't the movies; this is our reality. So what if I can't just hop into the sack with someone without a care in the world. That was never really realistic anyway, because look what happened!

There are restrictions in life. This one is pretty minor in the scheme of things.

Just look at poor Forrest.

NOTE: This blog was written before I found out that my GHSV was NOT the result of intercourse, it was actually from not using protection while receiving oral sex. Just my luck. Who the hell uses dental dams, anyway?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Herpes Tonight!

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, step right up... it's an actual play about the one, the only, HERPES!

I was so blown away when I saw on http://yoshi2me.com/sexual-health/ that someone actually had the balls to do a one man show about this subject.

The LA HELP group was meeting up that very night in Hollywood at a performace of a play called Herpes Tonight!, a one man show performed and co-written by Corey Moosa. Who was this brave man?

I checked out the link (the website is, conveniently, http://www.herpestonight.com/.) and was pleasantly surprised by a close up picture of the actor; young, cute, and brooding. Concerned, furrowed brows atop earnest blue eyes beseeching you to consider the injustice of it all. Facial scruff, good hair. Okay. Now we're talking.

In the past I have been too paranoid to even show up for a simple cup of coffee in the freakin' far out valley for fear that passersby would take one look at the group and the non-herpes related display item they use for inter-group recognition and just KNOW. And point and laugh and call it in to the evening news, of course.

But now, for whatever reason, I had no reservations about meeting up with a group of people in Hollywood, where I was much more likely to run into friends, with literally a huge "HERPES" sign above our heads. Call it insanity, or call it progress.

I drove by the theater and saw a lone man outside sort of pacing about. I found parking, and got a sign of reassurance as I waited for the walk signal. A tranny was talking at me, babbling without having even glanced my way. I laughed at something she said, and she looked up at me and her dazed expression changed. "Girl, you are beautiful. My goodness. You could be a model, for real." I was touched. I thanked her and crossed the street in my skinny jeans and strappy heels to her cries of "Work it!" I worked it right on over to my lil' herpes group.

A couple more guys were now outside the theater, looking to be in their 40's or so. For some reason, the style theme seemed to be sort of randomly Native American. Fringed leather jacket on one, eagle t-shirt on another. Did they have Native American heritage, or is this some kind of secret herpes dress code?

Nope, the rest of the group inside wasn't rocking the Navajo chic look. (But someone call Marc Jacobs, I think those dudes may be onto something.) I didn't see the symbol and didn't want to introduce myself to a group of people who may or may not look at me like I had two heads (or worse, herpes!) So I just sort of smiled brightly and blankly at everyone and perched noncommittally on a nearby couch arm. Someone shifted and I finally noticed that behind him was the merciful symbol signifying that this was the HELP group. Introductions were made all around. Everyone seemed nice and normal. Although not necessarily would I have anything else in common with anyone other than being humans and having one of two strains of the same virus. But a lot less awkward than I had assumed it would be.

After a few minutes I ended up somehow sort of paired off with one guy. He was nice enough and not bad looking, but again not someone I necessarily have anything else in common with. He has genital type 1, which I was surprised he knew very little about. He didn't realize that the transmission rates are much lower than type 2 and it will probably never even recur. (it hadn't.) He didn't realize that most people already have type 1 anyway and are pretty much immune from getting it in a second location. And he didn't seem to be as excited as he should have upon learning this. Who knows. We sat together. The fringed leather jacket dude was on my other side.

The audience seemed to be mostly made up of our group, so I wondered what other kinds of people were showing up on other nights. After all, I would think most people would be way too put off by anything herpes, or just a general lack of interest of something being outside of their world. Like for example, as a straight girl, it doesn't really occur to me to watch "Queer as Folk" and I would assume that the majority of the viewers are gay males. But of course I hope that people who don't have herpes also show up. Getting people to the theater in LA is hard enough. Bless Corey Moosa's heart for stacking the obstacles even higher and upping the ante. Sign of a true artist.

While we waited for the play to begin, funny altered TV show titles (like Heroes changed into Herpes, a similarity I have notice before when I saw a huge billboard for it and had to do a double take) were mixed in with herpes fun factazoids. I chatted with my new buddy and chugged an Amstel Light.

Okay, the play. Keep in mind I am not a professional critic or even much of a theater-goer, so this is my informal review. Corey was cute and charming in person too. It's a one man show, but he is great at filling the space and creatively hopping between characters, who are all seen from his perspective. The overall effect is very appropriate for the herpes experience; you feel like it's sort of him verses the world. Other actual people become sketches or blurs, not nearly as important as the solo, lonely experience of being diagnosed with herpes that only you can really understand.

He tells his unique story and infuses it with information, anecdotes, honesty, and above all, humor. A projector screen is creatively used as a visual from time to time, as are sound effects, but overall the minimal props and effects proved that less is more when the acting and storytelling is compelling enough, like it is here.

I never found myself bored or drifting. I didn't crave an intermission like I often do during plays. I reveled the experience of being out in the open at a public performace about herpes; not a depressing seminar, but something hip and funny and young. The concept alone of Corey's play is so bold and brave. And the material and performance are wonderful. In a way, if you can understand this, it made me feel sort of proud to have herpes. We are part of a select group of people who have to rise above this obstacle in life.

Anyone who does have the virus will find themselves relating to many of Corey's experiences and musings. (Asshole doctors, wondering at first if you're a walking biohazard, encountering uninformed people both hsv negative and positive, withdrawing upon diagnosis and smoking lotsa ganga, etc. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.)

And anyone who doesn't have it will leave with a new perspective.

There is a twist at the end which I won't reveal. You'll have to come see the play for yourself to find out! It runs Jun 06 – Jun 28 Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 pm at the Lounge Theater in Hollywood and costs 20 bucks. Well worth your money and time. UPDATE - NOW EXTENDED THRU JULY 12! (no july 4th show.) Must be doing well!

I read an essay recently commending those who are brave enough to put a face and sense of humanity behind the virus, and help to chip away at the stupid stigma. Corey Moosa can be added to this small list of what the author referred to as "herpes heroes." Let's hope others are inspired to join him, in their own creative ways!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dirty and Naughty. Now I got your attention...

Note: This blog was written before I found out that I don't have type 2 herpes, so I will not personally need to go on antivirals.

Excerpt from the book I am reading; a conversation between an older couple about to do the deed:

"So what I am trying to say is that I have had some problems. I am not as young as I used to be. ...But Viagra works."

Substitute Viagra for Valtrex, and we are pretty much in the same boat!

At first I hated the idea that I might have to take Valtrex every day. (for the purpose of this entry, Valtrex = Valtrex or Acyclovir or Famvir.) Specially cuz those commercials are so damn cheesy! But I digress.

My current situation is that so far I have not gotten a second outbreak (knock on wood) and am not getting laid (and am not about to get laid unless it's someone awesome enough to bother explaining GHSV to), so I don't need to be on suppresive Valtrex right now for its two uses (preventing OBs, and lowering risk of transmitting the virus to a partner.)

But the time might come when I do want to take them daily. I personally think it does just as much if not more than condoms when it comes to preventing the spread of the virus, because it prevents the Invisible Man from making an appearance.

(This comic book reference was shamelessly inspired by the excellent one man show Herpes Tonight! by Corey Moosa, which I saw last night in Hollywood. Review coming soon.)

The Invisible Man is when the virus replicates itself and travels to be present on your skin, without an outbreak, so you don't know it's there. The Invisible Man is actually called asymptomatic viral shedding. For most people on daily Valtrex, shedding still happens, but waaaaaaay less than without it. Like, hardly ever.

Out of the all people I have met on online GHSV communities, (yes, I am part of online GHSV communities, and I am still awesome) I have yet to encounter anyone who got the virus from their partner despite them being on supressive Valtrex and using condoms. If you have, please comment and let me know.

Also, this may or may not be true, but I have seen online several times that in the Valtrex studies that were done, the few who did get the virus despite their partner being on Valtrex almost all ended up being asymptomatic. (That's pretty much the best case scenario for a monogamous or married couple. Then you could ditch the condoms and pills and just get on with it!)

Old men these days are pretty open, if not proud, of being on Viagra; it shows they still have an active sex life. I realized recently as I took my nightly birth control pill that I feel no shame whatsoever for taking it. My friend used to jokingly call it the "dirty" pill. So, why should I feel bad or ashamed to take Valtrex? Maybe I'll call it the "naughty" pill. Sounds kinda sexy.

The moral of the story is, some people have/choose to take pills to make sex work right! To make sex sexy and less worrisome!

Friday, June 13, 2008

My old way of thinking

I did lots and lots of writing back when I was still thinking this was the end of the world. And although I don't feel this way anymore, it is good stuff that people might be able to relate to. So I want to share it even though I thankfully am over this hump. It's kind of like that project called "Mortified" where people read embarassing old diary entries from when they were kids.
So from now on when I don't have anything current to share, I am going to post an oldie but goodie. And I can be grateful for how far I have come.

"HERpes
The biggest minor problem you can have.

I’m back in my apartment, in my room. All I have wanted for the past month of traveling is to be where I am right now, in my bed, with my dog beside me. Which she most definitely is.

What I didn’t expect was that this bed, this room, this apartment would not feel like mine. I didn’t expect that the pictures on my wall, of me with my friends, and family, especially my family, would make me wonder who that person in those photos possibly is.

Who those people are.

Especially the photo of me with my family, taken just a few short years ago. I know it’s me, my sisters, my mom, and my dad. But not one of us is remotely still the person captured in that photo.

For me, it’s also because I now have a chronic disease. [Jeez, Miss doom and gloom. FYI, I realize now this is not a disease. It's just a virus.]

None of this can be shared with anyone, other than my sisters, and as of last week, my best friend.

I entered my room moments ago, suitcases and backpacks in hand, and saw my things, and the photos of me BEFORE. My life is now distinctly separated into BEFORE and AFTER. (But there was also an in between state that happened, a limbo, a purgatory before it all hit me; what could be compared to the eye of a storm.)

When you watch a movie about zombies and find yourself relating to the zombies rather than the uninfected innocents, you know you are truly operating on a whole other level. You can say I am alienated.

Over 10,000 people died in the earthquake today in China, so it could always be worse."


What can I say, I just didn't know any better. I've always had a flair for embracing the dark side. And I guess I had to go through the darkness to get to the light. The thing that made everything seem 10 times worse was that getting this virus seems to have pissed off my nerves, which makes sense since the virus lives in the nerves. It started with a mild sun burnt sensation in the lower back, and then the feeling moved to the general genital area. Thankfully, it has since settled down substantially. Apparently it is common to have this sort of thing for the first few months.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Herpes mention on Frosty, Heidi, and Frank

Note: this post was written before I knew i had type 1 and not type 2, so the statistics I used are for type 2 only.

For those of you who live in the LA area, you may have listened to this show on the FM talk station, FREE FM, 97.1 while you were stuck in traffic here and there. It's on weekdays around midday.

These guys are definitely not PC, they talk about everything under the sun without holding back. They're sort of self admittedly dorky but sort of funny and at the very least, interesting to listen to while stuck in traffic if you're sick of hearing that Vampire Weekend song over and over on indie 103, and nothing good is on NPR.

I don't expect them to be PC about ghsv. But I was a little disappointed by a comment Heidi made, cuz she's like a friend who just doesn't know any better and needs to be informed.

Someone called about how Valtrex commercials are on the time, and it makes them feel uncomfortable because they don't know how to explain it to their kids. (Which yeah, I agree, they are on too much, and I probably blush whenever they come on.)

They were talking about how the commercials make it a point that herpes don't hold them back. And Heidi said something like, "let's be honest here, don't genital herpes hold one back?"

No biggie. But Heidi, no, the vast majority of people who have it don't even know because they have no outbreaks whatsoever. And the vast majority of those who do know they have it are not walking around with an outbreak on the vast majority of any given day. Maybe a few weeks out of the entire year. (Should I say "vast majority" one more time for good measure?)

Most people I know who have ghsv actually do things like ride bikes for hours at a time, surf, play sports, etc. We joke about how we are like a Valtrex commercial come to life.

I just wanted to let you know, Heidster, that no, it really doesn't. I have only had one outbreak in my life since getting this, and I guess I wouldn't want to ride a bike in the throes of an outbreak if I were to get one again. The only thing it personally holds me back from is casual sex - cuz it's not worth having to let someone know all the facts about ghsv when chances are they probably have no clue about it all and would need like a 3 hour talk to wrap their heads around the fact that since i don't get OBs, if i take supressive meds, the risk to them would be 2% per year, and if we also use condoms, the risk would be lowered to a mere 1% per year, making the one night a risk of .003%. IF they didn't have it already, which there would be a 20% chance of. And if they didn't already have HSV1 antibodies built up from having the cold sore virus, which up to 90% of people do.

Whew! See? Not worth it. Luckily, making out is sometimes just as fun, if not better than finding out they are actually not very good in the sack.

So, let's just make out and grope each other a little... as long as you've never had a cold sore... heheh. kidding.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Storytime! (plus some math!)

Two virgins consumate their marriage on their wedding night.
Within days, one ends up with genital herpes.
How? Was someone lying?
No. It's simple:
Cold sore + oral sex = genital herpes.

This story clearly illustrates that HERPES IS A VIRUS; NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS.

It doesn't reflect on your character, sex life, moral judgements, cleanliness, number of people you've slept with, etc.

It's simply a byproduct of being human.

Remember when you had chicken pox as a kid? That was a form of herpes.

Remember when you or your schoolmate or your cousin had "cold sores" once in a while (or still does?) That was/is herpes. Society just decided to avoid the dreaded H word and come up with a more user friendly term for it.

If we all walked around afraid to touch each other, I don't think life would be worth living. So I guess herpes is a risk we all must take, simply by existing and being human.

Luckily, it's harmless and usually asymptomatic, or a small pain from time to time.

Thank goodness cancer isn't communicable.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Thanks a lot, Perez.

Perez Hilton. A gay man who has battled ignorant stereotypes and prejudices his whole life, a man who was a self admitted shy, overweight teenager obsessed with television, is somehow given a platform to change the world; his widely read blog. And what does he do? He continues to perpetuate a stigma against GHSV (genital herpes simplex virus), continues to encourage the 20-25% of the population who have GHSV to keep closeted about it, be ashamed or feel like they are "sluts" for having it, pointing fingers at random celeb Vanessa Manilo by publishing her photo along with the post.

He could have used this platform to clarify the article, which states that 1 out of 4 people in NYC have GHSV (the normal average is 1 in 5.)

Ok, so what now? How about teaching us a little about it, instead of just scaring us with numbers, and then pointing fingers at people.

How about explaining that the vast majority of people with either herpes virus have no idea they have it, as symptoms are either incredibly mild or nonexistent (not exactly the "ewwww disgusting" virus Perez's brainless supporters proclaim it to be.)

How about explaining that these asymptomatic people don't know they have it because GHSV is not included in STD testing unless specifically requested... which no one does if they are asymptomatic. But they can still spread it. Ignorance is not bliss in this case.

How about explaining that an additional 60% (at least) of the population has oral herpes (a.k.a. "cold sores"), making the herpes virus something that affects about 80% of the population. So if you don't have it, you're in the minority. Chances are extremely high that Perez Hilton himself has a herpes virus.

How about explaining that "cold sores" + oral sex can = GHSV type 1. (Luckily, when oral herpes makes its home in your genitals, it rarely recurrs, and is not easy to ever transmit to another person.)

How about explaining that people continue to be infected with GHSV type 1 because most people don't know the above fact, and GHSV type 2 continues to spread mostly because those who have it are too terrified to tell, based on people like Perez Hilton continuing to perpetuate an irrational, archaic stigma.

But once someone is open about it, preventing the spread is much easier. By avoiding sex during an outbreak and using daily meds like the nobel prize winning acyclovir/valtrex (acyclovir available at walmart for $16 a month), the female to male type 2 transmission rate for a couple sleeping together over the course of a year is a mere 2%. Add condoms and it's lowered to 1%. (The male to female ratios are slightly higher at 4% and 2% respectively.)

If the person you are dating tells you that they have GHSV2, believe it or not, you should actually be grateful. Here's why; If you reject someone only because of their GHSV2, you must then venture back out into a dating world in which 20-25% of people also have it. And the majority of them aren't going to know or be honest about it and aren't going to be taking precautions. (and just using a condom is not enough.) So if you think about it, you're actually better off being with someone who is open about having GHSV2 and is taking anti-viral meds. Not only does it keep your risk waaaaay down, it says a lot about someone who can defy society's stigma and risk their own reputation in order to put honesty and communication and your comfort first.

Shame on Perez Hilton for not using his platform to do some good.