Thursday, March 01, 2007
STDs and the single girl (and guy)!
CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and I have been impressed with all the response we've received regarding our story on dating with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). (Full Story)

So many people have commented on Jennifer's bravery and the fact that by telling her story, they no longer feel alone. It is our hope that her honesty will lead to an authentic and substantive conversation about STD's and dating (Watch Video)

We've also received a few emails saying there is much more to discuss. We agree, but unfortunately, there is only so much time on TV.

That's the great thing about the internet. We open the forum to you. .... What is it like to live .. to date ... with a STD?
I totally understand Jenniefer and why she felt a need to create a dating site for people like her, as a single women in a similar situation (I was recently diagnosed HIV+) I can relate. It has been my experience that when telling people about your status (whether it be herpes, hiv or something else) you never can guess how they are going to react and therefore are putting yourself in a very vulnerable place. These type of dating sites help get that vulnerable feeling out of the way. From the second you logon everyone knows, and understands (since they too are in the same boat) so there is no need to get nervous about disclosure.

Unfortunately there is also a downside, many people get on these sites only to find someone to have unprotected sex with. Some use these sites more as a way to have random sexual encounters rather than make contact with people that may relate to their situations. It makes it hard to find people for any kind of serious relationship from friendship to dating.
Timely and important topic, both for those who have STDs and those who don't. Recently, following 3.5 years of a monogamous relationship with my incredibly special girlfriend she admitted that she'd been infected with Herpes during her second year in college and her last outbreak had been 10 years ago. At first it made my head reel, yet because of my love for her I couldn't hold it against her that she'd been hesitant to tell me. When we first became involved I'd intended to ask her if there was anything she wanted to tell me in that regard, but didn't want to potentially insult her. She, in turn, was hesitant to potentially lose someone with whom she was falling in love. Lesson? Don't be too shy or afraid to be honest, whether if it's to ask, or whether it's to tell....it's too important an issue to not talk about.
I appreciate CNN showing even a small part of the story because it shows that there are options for people where they can find support, love and understanding.I wouldn't be the person I am today if it wasn't for all that love and support. Herpes is for life but it doesn't mean the end of that life.
One thing no one ever mentions about herpes simplex is that most people have herpes 1 virus since they are small. This is what all the doctors say - also with Herpes 2 - about two-thirds of people are CARRIERS and do NOT display symptoms outwardly. Some don't even know they have it because most gynecologists do NOT routinely test for it.

So, if one practices safe sex and has never had an outbreak - then there is no problem being with someone at all. Warts can be diluted off with a solution and it is NOT a guarantee that one's partner will contract anything IF there is no outward virus to penetrate - it is more difficult for men to contract then for women is what has been written about this.

It's surprising how the immune system works though.
Responding to the comment of the downside promoting random encounters for unprotected sex, this is far from true with regard to the AtlantaHClub.com and Mpwh.com and other related websites. These websites allow for socializationa nd support and dating opportunites for individuals that want to be responsible. At AtlantaHClub support group meetings we are told Herpes is the little reminder that keeps up from getting something that will kill us. If people are going to be irresponsible, it's not these websites that are promoting it.
Dating is dating is dating no matter what your health status is. It's great when you find someone you click with and it sucks when you don't.


Kudos to Jennifer and all those that bring STD's to a place of discussion.
I was in a self-imposed exile for over twenty years before I found a wonderful dating/support site for those of us with herpes (mpwh.net). Before I found it, I was mired in shame, feeling like damaged goods but that was because I felt like I was the only person with herpes and I am not! Now, having herpes is like a tiny blip on the screen of life. ;)

I would get close to someone I was dating and then I'd pull back because I was so afraid to share that I had the virus. Now if I meet someone and they can't handle the virus, I'm able to let it go because there are so many that don't blink an eye when I tell them. If it's meant to be it will be...

I have herpes; it does not have me!
I have herpes and I think people are making way too big of a deal out of it. The social stigma is far worse than the disease itself. I think it's kind of pathetic to limit yourself to dating only other people with herpes. If the object of your affection you're dating is a decent person they're going to understand, though they may have questions or concerns.

I think fretting over having herpes "for life" and forming special dating groups just adds to the stigma. Yes, the virus technically stays in your body forever but most people don't have any symptoms after a few years and it's not exactly a debilitating or fatal disease. Honestly, we should be thankful we don't have something worse.
It's about time this disease comes to the forefront. 1-4 have it. Look around your workplace, the lunchroom, the gym...Someone YOU know already has this. The stigma is far worse than the annoying little outbreaks that occur. Testing for HSV is typically NOT given when tests are done for stds.

People that have cold sores, chicken pox and shingles have a form of Herpes. The name and location of genital herpes is what causes the problems. You do not have to be promiscuous to have this virus. I've had it 20+ years and got it from my then fiance. To me it is a skin disorder and nothing more. Take away the stigma as someone you know already has this...or could it be you that has never been diagnosed??
I commend CNN for bringing this issue to the forefront. It's the scarlet letter of the 21st Century! As a member of this elite group for the last 6 years, I have found that people who DON'T have herpes make a bigger issue out of it than the people who DO have it. Bottom line: the disease is not who we are!
Thanks for opening up a blog on this important subject matter.

I am 43 and was diagonsed with HSV (Herpes) at the age of 38. Imagine, having made it through the crazy teen years... the hard rocking 80's... and the danceclub 90's virtually unscathed only to find myself diagnosed with an incurable infectious STD. I was traumatized. (Initially)

I was fortunate enough to come upon the Herpes site you mention in your online article (MPwH) within a month of my diagnosis. I was able to slowly get to the realization that I was far from alone and that my life hadn't really come to some horrific end. It had simply changed.

My adult son, who is aware of my status, likes to joke that I was a wallflower and pretty solitary until my herpes diagnosis and subsequent networking with friends.

It's true that my world is fuller and more vibrant now than I might have thought it would be 5 years ago.

It is my hope that your story, and others that might follow it, will help lead others to the reality that this isn't the end of the road... just a fork. Choose the high road... and love yourself.
I have Herpes. I think the article missed the mark by implying that people with Herpes should only date others with Herpes. That said, Herpes dating sites and social/support groups are a godsend for those who are uncomfortable about telling a potential partner and/or uneasy about putting a potential partner at risk. As a member of this social network and having the opportunity to date men with Herpes, it has actually enabled me to feel comfortable enough to tell a potential partner I have Herpes. What has been especially wonderful is meeting so many fellow women with Herpes through the network. Without the ability to have had this opportunity, I don't think I would ever have been comfortable and would have been alone all this time.
Glad to see this in the media. I got herpes in a committed relationship from a man who didn't know he had it. Yep, we both got tested for STDs, but herpes wasn't in the test set for either one of us. It's estimated that 90% of those who have genital herpes don't know they have it - so ask your partner to get tested. As a previous poster stated, it's too important not to discuss with your partner, even if it's an awkward conversation. Offering to also get tested will help make it fair - and be sure herpes is included in the test set!

And at least in my case, and probably in many other cases, the stigma is much worse than the condition itself.

The mean comments I've heard made about herpes are why I don't tell more people about it (but I would of course inform a potential partner!). I wish I someday could be brave enough to tell more people - seeing that "normal" people have herpes would probably shut up most of the naysayers.
I give props to those who can say herpes is not a big deal. I wish I could be more like that with it. But knowing how some of those that don't have it handle it, makes it very difficult. I want to thank Jennifer so much for her bravery! I admire the guts you have and where you are with this.
I think the most important thing about having online communities like mpwh.net is that they help with the intial psychological trauma of finding out that you have a life long STD that has such a HUGE social stigma. Having the support network helps a person come to grips with what amounts to a rash that is often little more than an occaisional inconvenience. Once you can accept yourself it becomes much easier to educate others and find acceptance from your family and friends. I know first hand that these communities have the potential to save lives (both literally and figuratively). After that, we can get on with our lives...
I have had herpes for 20 years and for 17 of those years did not date. Some well intentioned friends, who knew about my condition, encouraged me to give dating a try. My friends told me it shouldn't matter that I have herpes, that I am a lovely, intelligent and educated person. What's not to love?

Unfortunately, the experiences I've had telling the men I've dated about my herpes has been the social equivalent to yelling fire in a crowded building. And, while the negative reaction has been painful to me, I attribute it to ignorance and the associated social stigma of the disease.

A few months ago, I was surfing the internet and typed in "herpes dating" and found, mpwh.com. This site has some great information and support for people dealing with Herpes and HPV. The understanding of the members at MPwH has been fantastic! I highly recommend it.
Kudos to CNN for being the first major news organization to cover a Herpes dating story. I only wish that the coverage had made some inroads on lifting the "stigma" that comes along with a positive Herpes diagnosis. The reporter made it seem that Herpes is something that only affects women... common sense tells us that this can't possibly be the case... after all these Herpes women are contracting the virus from sexual contact.. and in most cases this is heterosexual contact.


I was diagnosed with "H" six years ago while involved in a long monogamous relationship. It took me several years to discover that there was a Herpes community which would provide support, friendship, and help me to learn how to live with Herpes and most importantly to forgive myself. Sites like the one mentioned in your report, www.mpwh.net, have made an amazing difference in the quality of my life.


Dating with Herpes carries with it the burden to be honest to future lovers about ones sexual past. Some choose to date within the Herpes community, but many choose to have frank, open and straightforward discussions with partners who are not in the "H" community. I do not define myself by my Herpes.


What I have learned from my dating with STD experience is the following:

Herpes is not rare. Honesty, on the other hand, is quite a rare and precious commodity. I choose to date both within the H world and also outside of it. I am careful to not pass along the "gift" of the virus to lovers... and I think they are open and acceptant of the virus because I give them the more important gift of straightforward honesty and truth by being open from the start. I could not have reached this point without the support of sites like MPwH.
I am always so impressed when someone has the courage to go public about having HSV. I have had it for 5 years & have yet to tell my friends/family. although not a deadly disease the emotional reaction to the disease is heart wrenching. I remember the last guy I told I had it took a step back away from me as if he could get it just by standing in my vicinity. Needless to say he never spoke to me again. So thanks to those that are courageous to speak out & educate others.
When I first got herpes I was devastated because of the stygma attached to it. While talking to a friend with the same condition one day he told me, we have cold sores, a skin condition. That's what it is and that's all it is. He's right of course. Because we've hidden and acted like people had valid reason to fear us, they have. I'm thankful for the internet and MPWH because it's allowed us to come out of hiding and support eachother. Like lauren was saying, we are NOT more likely to have unprotected sex. On the MPWH bulletin boards we often write about how important condoms are, and I for one have not had unprotected sex since being diagnosed with herpes. The types of people who come to this site are responisble adults seeking companionship. We are there because we care about others and whether we pass this on. We start out knowing the others are caring people. What other dating site can you say that about?
When you are first diagnosed with herpes, you expect your dating life (and perhaps even your whole life) to be over. After a while, it gets better, but for me my attitude didn't improve until I found mpwH, where I have experienced the exact opposite. But even better, mpwH has let me tap into a fluid, compassionate community of men AND women, and I've even made one of the most precious commodities (to a woman, anyway): new female friends to hang out and dish with. Life is indeed good!
Ever since I joined MPWH, my whole attitude towards Herpes has changed. I am hopeful that one day there will be a cure. Meanwhile, I am satisfied just knowing that I can openly express myself and talk about it with amazing people who can identify, understand, and be accepting of me. Herpes is no longer the end of the road for me. It is just a road block and I discovered a way to go around it. Thank you CNN for this amazing report and thank you Jennifer for your bravery.
I had my first herpes outbreak twenty months after breaking off with my fiance and hadn't been with anyone else. If I had been, I could have unknowingly infected another person. I really didn't know much at all about STDs, safe sex, etc. until I was infected. At that point, part of my own therapy was to learn as much as I could about it. I didn't date for about two years. People need to get tested if they have been sexually active. Also, it can take three to four months for antibodies to show up in the blood, so one could get a false negative, and would need to be re-tested. As many have stated on here, the emotional part of this virus is far worse than the physical part. I have met some great people on mpwh.net and I don't know what I would have done without all their support; but I am not exclusive to the "H" world because I firmly believe that it provides a litmus test of what you mean to the other person. Yes, it can be hurtful, but why would I want to be with someone that really doesn't love me for who I am?
This is an interesting sub-thought to me. On one hand you have a group of people that have hsv2 or 1. Such as myself(HSV2). The word isolation is used in previous blog. This is a very true and accurate statement. On the other opinion people who dont have it feel the virus is a blemish of sorts. I have always told my partners that i have it. It was gut wrenching becuase who knew what the outcomes would be. Would they tell me to go away and then tell everyone else ? For some reason they didnt. I say that because at that time if the situation was reversed i dont know if i would have been so open. The very powerful urge that moves our human race forward is a herky jerky vehicle. I just know wondered why it is so fraught with dangers. Do you think penguins have STDs ? Or are the Great Whites that consume them as they franticly swim for their lives the STDS ?

I have learned to watch all my stress levels. Bundle up in the winter. Not get too overheated. I have pushed my body physically over the years. I wanted to know where the activation point was. I found it and have used it as a guide. I have learned to not ignore the tingle sensation and pray that it goes away. I have learned act quickly with medication and be diligent about washing my hands.
I understand eveyones pain of the STD's..but everyone seems to forget about the biggest one out there HPV..I was diagnosed with it in 2002..after i had my hysterectomy..I have the highest HPV 18...so im at cancer risk 24/7..I have had 2 surgeries to remove the cancerious cells and it still hasnt worked..because my paps still comes back abnormal..Since my diagnoses I havent been intimate with anyone..I feel like I shouldnt..I just dont understand why Chemo cant kill the virus..Do I have to let it get to cancer to get it cured??? I just dont understand how they can prevent it with gaurdisel but cant cure it...does anyone know about any new treatments my DR may not know about???
For the benefit of all, I am posting my inital response to the CNN editors with regards to this story that has aired.

First off, I'd like to thank CNN and both of you for doing this story.

The woman Jennifer you interviewed happens to be a personal friend of mine and like her, I also have genital herpes and have had it for about 15 years.

While I and many, many of my friends are glad to see strides made in raising awareness of STD's, we wish it could be done in a more informative, less sensational way. The piece that aired was obviously heavily edited to the point where the message was fragmented and somewhat distorted.

HPV and Gential Herpes(HSV) are not the same thing and that point was not clearly made in your piece. In addition, the tone of the piece presenting HSV and HPV in an "alarming" way, almost as if "scary", does nothing to de- stigmify those with Herpes and that as many as 1-4 people have the condition and many do not know it.

If one has a cold sore..they have herpes, if one has chicken pox, or shingles..they have a form of the herpes virus. Herpes is very common, and those with herpes are every bit as real of a person as those without. We have regular jobs, regular relationships and regular lives.....

You probably were not aware that there is a website/online community with over 60,000 members.....members of varying races, nationalities, genders who all share something in common. Not only is it a dating site, but its also a resource and support for those with the condition to find comfort and more information.

I would like to suggest that CNN do a follow-up piece in greater depth, more informative and more positive as a service to the general public at large and in light of CNN's reputation as an information leader worldwide.


Again, I'd like to see a follow-up piece done while this is still a viable topic......and I'd be happy to contribute to it.
I have had Herpes for 11 years, the man that I got it from didn't bother telling me he had it...... I was devastated but I soon found MPwH.net, at first I would only date people that already had it, but now I have the courage to have 'The Talk' and have been very successful, all of this has been because of the support and friendship I received from MPwH.net and still continue to receive. The stigma itself is FAR FAR worse than the disease itself, its just a minor skin condition...


I can not emphasize enough though that if you do not have it, that you and any prospective partner get tested BUT make sure you ask them to test for ALL of the major STD's, ask them to tell you EXACTLY what is included in the testing.... be informed.....
Herpes isn't really that big a deal. If you asked me whether I'd rather get a cold or have an outbreak, the answer without a doubt is the outbreak. Pop a few pills and it's over. And that only happens about once a year. My ex, who gave it to me, has never had anything but the initial outbreak, and that was barely an irritation. I am only pointing out that if you are dating somebody and they tell you they have H, you shouldn't panic or look at it as death sentence. Give them a chance.
They say that everything happens for a reason. Who would have thought that having Herpes could turn out to be a good thing? I have met a wonderful man whom I never , in a million years, would have met otherwise. Being on STD niche dating sites like pozgroup.com narrows your choices down to people who have, hopefully, learned some very valuable lessons. Will we get married and live happily ever after? Too early to say but we do love being together.
I have been on online dating sites for 3 years and have talked to a lot of people so if I were to give any advice it would be this: Stand back, be quiet and figure out who you are and what you want. Then go for it and don't give up. As far as suggestions for services on this site - I think it already is the best in the world.
MPWH is actually the first herpes dating site, but a friend of mine told me stdworld.com. At first I was very uncomfortable about internet dating. But after a good night of sleep I thought to myself, what the heck, let's give it a try.
Less than 2 weeks later, I got in contact with somebody. We winked, mailed, chatted, and decided to meet. That worked really well, so we dated more, and things got more serious. Now nearly 6 months and a few trips later, we can't get through the day without at least talking to each other. We are both very happy and we advice everybody to give it a try! There is always chance that you meet the love of your life. As our story proves the quality at stdworld.com is really second to none!
After a quick look around, you can easily see why it's clearly the best place to flirt and mingle...without a bunch of spammy profiles.
The site is broken down into Free Membership and Gold Member....
Free membership
Creation of a full profile and even pictures Browse and do general searches to get familiar with other members Receive and reply to all contacts Gold membership
Total control over initiating contact Advanced sorting and search features Strong privacy and security measures, such as "Hide Undesirables" Profile and Photo privacy control.
An additional factor adding to overall quality with pozgroup.com, is that new profiles undergo a review process...which obviously helps filter out spammers and other "undesirable people".
I hope to see your stories in the success story list soon!!!!
HWerks.com is not only a herpes dating site but it also lists local events. I think it's the best herpes dating and support site out there.
When I learned that I had an std I felt like I was all alone in the world. I wanted to find a place where I didn't have to feel embarrassed or rejected and I found it with std dating! It took me several years to discover that there was a Herpes community which would provide support, friendship, and help me to learn how to live with Herpes and most importantly to forgive myself. Sites like the one mentioned in your report, stdromance.com, have made an amazing difference in the quality of my life.
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