Sunday, January 25, 2009

But he said he was "clean"...

News flash - most don't really know if they are STD-free or not.

Most CAN'T possibly know for sure, despite thinking so.

Even if they had the routine STD panel test and it came back negative for everything!

Here's why.

First of all, there is a common virus which can't even be tested for in men - HPV. Although it is possible for women to be tested for it, they usually are not. Doctors will usually only diagnose it if there are telltale pre-cancerous cells or genital warts. But plenty of people have this virus but without those telltale symptoms, and they have the ability to transmit it to others. It is actually so common that most women have it at some point in their lives, and never know it.

That leaves an awful lot of people proclaiming to be STD free, who actually have HPV.

And we know that 20-25% of people have HSV2, and they can be blood tested for it, but usually never are unless they have the telltale blisters - which most who have this virus don't actually ever experience. But doctors don't test for it unless there are blisters, or if the test is specifically requested.

That leaves an awful lot of people proclaiming to be be free of STDs, who actually have type 2 genital herpes.

And we also know that HSV1 is so common that 65-90% of all people have it. It is the common virus which can cause "cold sores", and it is not considered to be an STD. But that virus can be transmitted to someone who doesn't already have HSV1 in their system, during oral sex, even without a cold sore present.

So most people do have the ability to transmit a form of genital herpes to someone, even if they don't have genital herpes themselves.

Makes your head spin.

People are proclaiming to be STD-free, when they have absolutely no way of knowing that. Even if they are fastidious about condom use - often, skin to skin contact is enough to transmit.

And even if they ARE being tested for these viruses (which the vast majority are not) - it can take months for the body to process them after exposure, and show up positive in a test.

AND even if they truly don't have a "disease" which was transmitted to them in a sexual scenario (cold sore virus), they can still have the ability to transmit it to others in a sexual scenario. This can happen from one virgin to another. So much for the idea of anyone being "clean."

Besides, the people who have these viruses, whether they know they have them or not, are not dirty or unclean. They are just like any other living creature with the ability to carry and transmit viruses. We get colds, we get the flu, we get cold sores, we get STDs. We are human. We don't live in cages, separated from one another. And last time i checked, sex was a normal, expected part of the human experience.

If you shower, you are clean.

And if you get checked for STDs and are clear, that only means that you are free of SOME STDs. NOT all of them. There is usually no way to even find out.

And those who are able to find out they have something, because they happened to have symptoms, are no different from so many others out there, who have the same exact virus but just don't know it.

Almost anyone who has sex, or oral sex, even just once, is at risk for getting or spreading an STD. Micro-organisms don't exactly look at resumes. (I didn't come up with that one!)

This whole concept of being "clean" or not is irritating and inaccurate. Do me a favor... don't let people get away with it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's all fun and games until someone gets herpes.

Or, I should say, it's all fun and games until someone KNOWS they have type 2 herpes.

Okay, here's what's really getting my goat lately.

Those who know that they have type 2 herpes have a moral obligation to tell sexual partners about it, usually having to take on the huge unrealistic stigma out there and do a ton of educating. Okay, we can agree on that.

But what about the HUGE amount of people who DON'T know that they have type 2 herpes, because they never had an outbreak and they never had the blood test, who somehow DON'T have this moral obligation, even though they have the SAME EXACT VIRUS and present the SAME EXACT RISKS to others who are negative.

Doctors will say, yes, those who have HSV2 must disclose this to partners.

So why don't doctors have that same moral obligation to test their patients for it?

They do NOT include HSV2 in STD testing, and they don't even tell patients that it isn't being included. The word coming to mind here certainly isn't "moral."

Doctors are enabling people to not know about their HSV2 status, and therefore to not tell partners about it.

The reason we are given that doctors don't test for it is that the psychological burden of knowing that you have it is usually much worse than any physical symptoms.

This is wacky, because if more people know they have it, then the psychological burden can start to become a thing of the past. And it still doesn't get around the moral obligation to notify patients that they have it.

Another reason some doctors will give is that the blood test is not accurate, and almost everyone has herpes anyway and will turn up positive. But today's type specific Herpeselect blood test is actually very accurate, and it does clearly differentiate between type 1 (the one 65-90% of people have) and type 2 (the one 20-25% have.)

Okay, so 20-25% of people are infected with type 2 herpes (HSV2), but only about 2% of people KNOW that they are infected with it.

By allowing this to go on, doctors are allowing the outdated and unrealistic type 2 herpes stigma to continue. In this day and age, many people continue to believe that type 2 herpes is somehow rare, or something to avoid at all costs, or freakish, or dirty, etc.

But the reality is, the amount of Americans who have HSV2 is about equivalent to the amount of those who have bachelor's degrees.

I bet you know plenty of people who have bachelor's degrees, right?

You know A LOT of people who have HSV2. Whether you know it, or whether they know it. In any given room, it is 1,2,3, HSV2.

So what does all this mean? I'm guess I'm just pointing out the hypocrisy here. We need to get in touch with reality when it comes to HSV2. It is very common, and transmission can be easily prevented almost 100% as long as you know you have it. The only people transmitting it are almost always those who don't know they have it, or are too afraid to do anything about it or be honest about it or treat it and have their heads in the sand. So go get tested, and ask your partners to, so you can know your status, and what precautions you can consider using.

And if someone is telling you they have HSV2, please know that so many others do as well, whether they know it, or are telling you, or not. Chances are, you have already slept with someone who has it. If you think that it is somehow a dealbreaker, then you are not being realistic or rational, unless you are requiring every single person you sleep with to get a Herpeselect type specific blood test, 6 months after having slept with anyone else (since that's how long herpes antibodies will take to form after exposure.)

Remember that hiding your head in the sand will still leave a certain part of you exposed...