Hi! My name is Robin and I work on the Sex Sense team. I’m totally a sex nerd. I love it when people ask me questions about sex, sexuality, and sexual health. You can find out how to ask me your questions at www.sexsense.org.
A VERY Common Question
Just about every shift, someone calls who has just been diagnosed with HSV (also known as herpes). They often think their life has ended. Or at least their sex life. It’s a vulnerable moment, and it’s not for me to tell anyone how to feel.
If you’re newly diagnosed with HSV, or struggling with an older diagnosis or navigating a herpes diagnosis in a sexual relationship and wondering what’s next for you – welcome! Your feelings are valid and you’re not alone.
I mean you’re really not alone. Roughly 90% of Canadian adults have herpes – it’s extremely common! It’s likely that most people you know also have it, even if they don’t know it themselves.
The Good News
Some folks also find it useful to know that unlike many other STIs, it’s extraordinarily rare for herpes to have serious long-term health impacts. In fact, most people don’t have any symptoms at all. (Which is why so many people who have herpes don’t know they have herpes.)
And yes – some people do get symptoms. And sometimes they’re uncomfortable. But generally these symptoms get better over time, and people can take antiviral medications to reduce or eliminate them altogether.
Essentially, herpes is a benign skin condition with a bad reputation. Because we live in a sex-negative society, the social stigma of a herpes diagnosis is often the worst part of the infection. The good news is that we have the power to change that!
The Positive Side of Herpes
It may be hard to believe if you’re new to all of this or herpes has caused you stress and pain, but some folks have discovered that herpes can even have some benefits. We recently found this post online by sex educator John Woods, in which he lists the top ten ways having herpes has improved his life.
If you’re not there yet, that’s OK – a herpes diagnosis can be a lot to process. If this is your situation we recommend this resource from the BC Centre for Disease Control. Or this video from their website might also be helpful.
However, it is worth reading John’s post for another perspective that goes beyond the stigma to look at the positive side of herpes. We highly recommend it!
Please note: Sex Sense is a free, pro-choice, sex-positive, and confidential service. Our team of registered nurses, counsellors, and sex educators offer information and resources on sex, sexuality and sexual health. You can find our hours and contact info at www.sexsense.org.
This post contains general information that may not apply to everyone. It is not a substitute for professional medical diagnosis and treatment or counselling and other mental health supports. If this is a topic that impacts you, please follow up with questions about your own specific situation. We will answer you privately and provide the appropriate information resources.