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“I’ve always waited a little while before telling people, basically until I thought it was going somewhere,” Davis says.
“This isn’t everyone’s experience, but when I started dating with herpes, I found out none of my partners cared.”Although she sees that it’s intriguing to potentially avoid attachment—and thus heartbreak—by telling someone right out the gate, she makes an excellent point in favor of taking your time: “Nobody tells you all of the things about themselves that you usually don’t find out for a bit, like they have really bad credit or they’re a horrible cook, until you get to know each other.” Of course, it’s different with a health condition you can pass to someone else, but it’s worth noting.
Although they tell potential partners at different points in the relationship, Carlson and Davis’ actual disclosure process is pretty similar.
They both say it can be nerve-racking, but a few things help: sitting the person down in a place that’s comfortable for them, trying not to be too emotional, starting off with something like, “Hey, there’s something I need to talk to you about,” and bringing a wealth of knowledge to the conversation.“I always try to be calm and not too clinical but explain that I have done the research,” Carlson says.
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Davis says the number one question they get on The STD Project is about how to tell a new partner.
On sites like Positive Singles and HMates, users are expected to be open about their diagnoses, but because they know everyone else there has an STD, too, it removes a huge barrier—and the question of whether the information will send a potential partner packing.“It’s a great way to see you’re still the same interesting, sexy, desirable person,” Davis says.
It can also be asymptomatic, so most people with herpes don’t know they have it, which is a large part of the reason why it’s so prevalent.
Around two-thirds of people worldwide under age 50 have herpes simplex 1, according to the World Health Organization, and around one in every six Americans between ages 14 and 49 has genital herpes, usually caused by herpes simplex 2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It helps rebuild the confidence that gets hammered down when you get that diagnosis.” (She is a spokesperson for Positive Singles, but she’s never used any STD-specific dating site.)Carlson, who got back into dating via this kind of site after her diagnosis, agrees.