Dr. Darcy discusses STDs and your relationship

Ask a Mental Health Professional

Dear Darcy:
A year ago I noticed a pimple in my bikini area but because of where it was located, I just figured it was from shaving. After a month I decided to have it checked out by a doctor and the doctor told me it was genital herpes. Over the last year the herpes came back a bunch of times so my doctor put me on medication to stop breakouts from happening , so here’s my big question: I caught the herpes from a girl I met at a bar one night when my girlfriend and I were in a fight. Do you think I have to tell her if I’m on medication to make sure I won’t get any more herpes?  

Did you say you had one question or numerous questions? Based on your email, I’m guessing that your areas of confusion are not as obvious to you as they are to me. Let’s start with the one that screams the loudest to me: Your girlfriend and you had a fight, and your coping skill of choice was to hook up with a complete stranger who, lucky for you, only gave you herpes—and your question is whether you have an ethical obligation to disclose your STD to your girlfriend? The short answer is yes, you most definitely are obligated to tell her that you have herpes so that she can make an informed decision regarding the health risks she’s willing to take. Moreover, you are obligated to inform everyone you’ve been with since contracting herpes, and that includes individuals whose timing in your life places them in the “I’m not sure” category.

Regardless of what suppression medication you’re on (the “no more breakouts” meds), and even if you’ve had no further outbreaks since beginning your medication regime, you can still infect partners. Herpes is a virus, one that can exist without visual symptoms, and unless your partners are aware of your medical condition and have consented to having unprotected sex, you should familiarize yourself with female prophylaxis (like dental dams and latex gloves) and use them every time you have sexual contact with a partner. Meanwhile, have a look at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention Web site (cdc.gov/std) and educate yourself about STD’s and their transmission.

E-mail questions to dr.darcysmith@gmail.com or call 212-604-0144

Dr. Darcy Smith received her Masters degree from Columbia University and her Ph.D. from New York University. She has been a practicing social worker for over 10 years and is in private practice in both New York City and New Jersey.

*By submitting questions, the writer acknowledges that she has no rights of confidentiality and that her question or a version thereof may be printed in GO Magazine. Correspondence between Dr. Darcy Smith and a writer does not constitute a therapeutic relationship and such a relationship and the rights/privileges associated with such can only be established through a scheduled, in-person session.

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