“Date your own” needs to go
Whether you’re recently diagnosed or have been living with HSV (herpes simplex virus) for a long time, you are not alone. This can be a difficult thing to experience but you are in good company and it doesn’t have to impact your daily life. If you’re recently diagnosed, it may seem like it, but that will subside over time.
One initial reaction for people can be the idea that having herpes means you shouldn’t date those without it. This attitude can be seen in herpes support groups as well as herpes dating sites. Keeping members’ confidentiality is a way to honor them but to what extent does it feed into the stigma of an STI diagnosis? The overall vibe of some support groups can feel like it’s best to keep it a secret and only socialize with others who are positive for HSV. There is also an unspoken or sometimes explicit approach to dating only others who are HSV positive.
If you are positive for HSV and know it, you are not required or expected to only date others with HSV. The World Health Organization estimates that 67% of the world population under age 50 have HSV1 and 13% (ages 15-49) have HSV2. Given that transmission of HSV1 to the genital area has become very common, I don’t believe distinguishing between the two in terms of dating approach makes much sense. HSV is common among humans and dating is difficult enough. There is no point in making it more difficult.
Additionally, we know that herpes often goes undetected. When people ask for STI testing with a health care professional, HSV is typically not tested for. Antibodies can be detected through blood but these are not included in the routine tests. If there is a current outbreak, a swab can be taken and tested. There are lots of people who are HSV positive but they don’t know it. Those who do know it shouldn’t be stigmatized, isolated or shamed.
We need to stop shaming people for their STI status. Providing a safe, open-minded, judgment-free space for others to share their status is the best way to minimize your risk of an STI when becoming intimate with someone. People with STIs shouldn’t have to “date their own” but they should be honored and shown gratitude when they are able to be vulnerable and share their status.