Dating a woman with genital herpes

"I was very ashamed, and thought I didn't deserve to be loved," she said.

The same goes for Maria, 33, who was diagnosed with genital herpes about a year ago and has grappled with feeling like she's somehow tainted.

"There's more of a stigma when it comes to women and anything sexual, and that definitely applies to STIs as well." Jenna knows that stigma all too well.

When she was first diagnosed, she stopped dating for a full year.

Living with herpes as a single woman has forced Jenna to hone her technique for telling potential sexual partners: She is informative, stays calm and never attempts to make them feel sorry for her.

Jenna waits several dates to break the news -- long enough that she feels comfortable bringing up something so intimate, but well before sex is on the table in any kind of real way. "The possibility of rejection, especially when you have grown to like the other person... They run, even after months of movies, ice cream, long talks and dinners and middle-of-the-night texting," she said.

She doesn't know who she caught the STI from, but she suspects it was one of the men she slept with in a stretch when she was doing a lot of online dating, after her marriage of seven years fell apart."For me, there's been a lot of shame," she said."It makes you feel dirty, and it makes you feel like people are not going to love you because of this." When Maria was diagnosed, she was several months into a new-ish relationship. It's a personal piece of information, so it's not something you need to blurt out with in the first 10 minutes of meeting someone, but I think you also don't want to wait until your clothes are off." Be straightforward, Marin generally advises, and try something like, "I want you to know that I have this, and this is what you need to know to keep yourself safe." It's an exhausting conversation to have repeatedly, says Amanda, 34, who's had genital herpes for almost 10 years, catching it during what she thought was a monogamous's just so hard." About half the time, the conversations go well, Jenna says. "They will disappear and block your number." For all the shame and secrecy that surrounds sexually transmitted infections (STIs), they are incredibly common.The CDC estimates that nearly 20 million new infections occur each year in the United States, in young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Two years ago, Jenna caught herpes from a partner who told her he was clean, insisting, at one point, that a flare-up she showed him was just heat rash.

Now she has outbreaks almost every month, usually around her period or when she's feeling particularly stressed.


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