Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Full disclosure a must with STIs

Full disclosure a must with STIs

Full disclosure a must with STIs


Dear Jackson,

My boyfriend recently told me he has genital herpes. We’ve been seeing each other for 4 months, and having sex regularly. I haven’t shown any symptoms yet, but am worried I have contracted the virus. We haven’t had sex at all since he told me, and I am reluctant to anytime soon. No doubt he is getting frustrated – we’ve had numerous rows about it, he says he doesn’t want to talk about it, which makes me even more angry. I don’t want to break up with him, but I really don’t want to get this STI.

I don’t like this boyfriend of yours. If someone carries a sexually transmitted infection, full disclosure is necessary, both morally and legally.  It doesn’t matter how awkward the “I have herpes” conversation is. To pass an STI onto an unwitting partner is the worst kind of selfish behaviour. Do you really want to stay with someone who has shown such little regard for your health?

First of all, get tested at a reliable clinic. If he’s been using condoms, you stand a good chance of being fine. If the result is positive, coming to terms with this STI will be difficult. But don’t fret – the herpes simplex virus (HSV) is much more prevalent than most people think.

In the United States, for example, an estimated 57.7 per cent of Americans are affected by HSV-1 (the virus that causes cold sores) while 16.2 per cent of Americans live with HSV-2 (the virus associated with genital herpes). Numbers are even higher in Africa and Europe. The vast majority of carriers, moreover, are asymptomatic – that is, they never experience the virus’s painful blisters.  

The social stigma, however, can be much worse than the virus itself. Think of all the stupid herpes jokes people make. How awful when at least half of their audience will have a form of the virus. Most people don’t get herpes from being promiscuous and irresponsible – they get it because they fall for cowards like your “I don’t want to talk about it” boyfriend. Think about it. This stigma probably explains your boyfriend’s silence.

So, lots of people live with herpes, and there are lots of ways of dealing with it. If taken regularly, antiviral medications have been shown to both reduce the frequency of symptoms and stop viral shedding, the process by which herpes spreads. Your boyfriend might want to look into taking something like this. Tests have also shown that antivirals can help prevent contraction of both types of HSV – an option for you if you haven’t been infected yet. Such medications are available in Cambodia. Talk to a doctor and only buy medication from reputable sources. Stress and fatigue are also believed to trigger herpes outbreaks. Staying fit, sleeping well, and eating wholesome foods will go a long way towards helping you bolster your immune system to manage this. In the long run, this is probably a healthier route than regularly taking medication.

Also, there are support groups and dating sites geared towards people with the virus. Moral of the story: if you have HSV, you won’t be alone. Don’t feel compelled to stay with this jerk just because you’re infected too.

If you do decide to stay with him, openness is key. If he has symptoms, he needs to tell you when he does because that’s when the virus is most contagious. When either partner has symptoms, abstention from sex is 100 per cent necessary.

Otherwise, you’ll create a vicious cycle whereby you continually re-infect one another ad infinitum. And when you do have sex, keep it safe. Even oral should be done with a prophylactic. Mmm flavoured condoms. And if your boyfriend continues to be silent about the topic, dump him.

While there’s still no cure for herpes, in March, American researchers announced that they’re honing in on a vaccine. With the virus being so prevalent, pharmaceutical companies are pumping a lot of money into herpes research, and there’s a good chance that cure will be developed in your lifetime.

Got a question about sex or relationships for Jackson? Email [email protected]


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