"Don't deny your health situation. I hear from many readers on my relationship advice site who are so upset about learning that they have a sexually transmitted disease that they use magical thinking and pretend they don't have it, and continue dating as if they didn't because they just don't want to face the responsibility of having a health issue," says April Masini of AskApril.com.
So what's a gal to do? Go to the doctor and get professional advice if you even think you have an STD. You'll actually feel relieved to be taking care of business, even if it's unpleasant business. Knowing is better than not knowing.
"If you have a transmittable STD, it's very important for you to be informed. Ask your doctor for information about the disease, how it is transmitted (some are transmitted during sexual contact, some require blood contact or an open sore) and what the preventive action is — most STDs are well-prevented with proper condom use," says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.
"Once you have good information, you will know what to tell prospective partners. This information should definitely be shared before having sex. Don't rush into sex: Going slowly into sex reduces the risk of STDs, because there's more time to talk and get to know each other," says Tessina.
You don't need to share your status with everyone you meet, but at the point you think a new date may become a sexual relationship, it's important to tell the other person. You cannot be sure you can trust the other person to be honest, but you'll feel better about yourself if you are. Whether you are infected or not, you need to practice safe sex for your own protection, no matter what the other person says. At the point that you decide to make a commitment, you can then both be tested for a panel of STDs and decide what sexual protection you'll need to practice.
"Some people I hear from wait until they think the relationship is going somewhere, even though they've already had sex with the person, exposing them to whatever STD they're carrying," says Masini.
And if it doesn't go anywhere, they never tell them. Usually the thinking is that they want to hook the person emotionally, so that they'll be more invested, and probably more understanding when hearing the news. They risk the person blowing up in anger and storming off.
"Because dating with an STD requires disclosure, and because disclosure isn't easy, most people find themselves waiting longer to have sex with a new partner. That's OK. I'm pleased to say that what I hear from my patients is that the STD is rarely a deal breaker when someone has been dating and things are moving toward sex," says Lisa Oldson M.D., Medical Director of Analyte Health. "That's not to say it never happens, of course sometimes people will decline to take the relationship to the next step, but most of the time things seem to work out. When someone likes you, they are usually willing to find a way to make it work," says Oldson.
The other great option for people who don't want to worry about having "the talk" is the advent of dating sites for people with specific STDs. If you have genital herpes and it's hard to find a way to bring it up, why not join a herpes dating site and spare yourself the difficult conversation? With approximately 45 million Americans having genital herpes, there are plenty of great people out there who are struggling with the same issue.
If you think having a sexually transmitted disease is a drag, consider being served with a lawsuit for the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease, and the publicity that this is going to generate. Your genitals could become public record. Do the right thing and tell your partner before you have sex with them.
Ignore the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that some people practice. Do ask. Before you sleep with someone. And the more you get to know someone, the more you'll be able to tell if they're honest or not, so if you're going to sleep with someone the first night or even week you've met them, you won't have a good idea of their honesty-policy. "Obviously, condoms are more effective in transmitting some sexually transmitted diseases than using nothing — and you'd be surprised how many people use no birth control — even with people they don't know well, and then write me because now they're pregnant. Your body, your responsibility — whether you're a man or a woman," says Masini.
"There is hope, with a little research online you can find a handful of niche dating sites with names like Positive Personals (for people diagnosed with HIV) and After H (herpes and HPV)," says Chrystal, longtime owner of Adult Novelty store Phat Toys. They work like any online dating service — register, post a profile and maybe a photo, and view other members' personal information, too. There is even an internet dating community specifically for singles diagnosed with herpes — Meet People With H.
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