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.