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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.Both Davis and Carlson eventually moved past their initial panic and saw herpes for what it is: an infection many people have that happens to usually get passed through sexual contact.But all the self-acceptance in the world doesn’t erase the fact that a herpes diagnosis creates ripple effects of shame and social isolation, and the fallout is especially pronounced when it comes to your dating life.“It’s good to have the conversation because there is a potential risk of transmission,” Cherrell Triplett, M.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.
“After I felt more comfortable with myself and the situation, I went on Bumble and started dating people in the more conventional way,” she says.
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Davis agrees, saying she fills people in on key details, like how herpes is transmitted, how transmission can be prevented, whether she’s taking medication that keeps the virus from multiplying, thus making it less likely to transmit, and how to find more information about the STD.
To top it all off, she also tells them they don’t have to make a decision about whether to continue seeing her—or even respond—right away. But I usually peace out so they have their space to chew on it,” she says.