I’d love some advice. I gather from some of your tweets that you might have some personal insight into this, so here goes:
I’m in a poly relationship with a close friend who is married. All is cool. We’re happy, and I date other people and it’s fun and supportive and great. Friendship gets better all the time, and so does the sex.
I’m also romantically very attached to an old old friend from way back who is recently coming back into my life. She lives on the other coast, but we’re talking about getting together in the next few months and sex is definitely on the agenda. Whether we can make a long term thing of it will depend on a lot of factors, too many to go into, but I’m still interested.
The problem is that in the past year she was diagnosed with HSV2. Asymptomatic. Neither I nor any of my other partners have it. I’ve done a pile of research and I think I understand what my risks are. I also think I’m willing to take those chances (they seem slight enough) at least for the time being. We probably won’t spend more than a week together this year anyway. The transmission rate appears to be like 4% per year for hetero males who are with HSV positive females. Condoms reduce this by half, so 2%. Valcyclovir ["Valtrex"] would reduce it by another 50% so that would be 1%. Per year. And we’re not going to be together for a whole year.
The real problem is that she isn’t willing to take valcyclovir as a preventative. She says it caters to fear, it isn’t good to take drugs that aren’t necessary, and the drug companies are preying on us. I agree with those in principle. I also know that if I were in her position, I would definitely take the drug without hesitation. I’m trying not to blow this out of proportion. I think she has every right to this boundary. I also have every right to draw my line in the sand somewhere else.
I will probably try to explain to her how we differ on this, and that it is bothering me that she doesn’t see it my way. My dilemma is, how much of this discussion and its final outcome do I need/want to share with the rest of my community. Is it enough to say that we’re taking the precautions we can, or is it important that I say “we’re taking all the precautions we can except for this one which goes against her beliefs”. I’m probably going to go with plan B, and tell those who need to know exactly what we are doing. I am doing a lot of educating these days, acquainting people with the risks as I understand them and pointing them to the resources to make their own judgements. Then they can decide if it’s a big deal for them or not.
I don’t want this to be a big deal, but it definitely is for most of the people I care about. I’d like to believe that more truth hurts no one and less truth hurts everyone. But at some point, the discussion is still ongoing and there’s no need to broadcast every thought to everyone in a five mile radius.
Any ideas? I know this is a bit rambly but it’s where my head is at this late hour.
Thanks for all you do. I appreciate what you give out to the world a lot.
Even though you’ve only asked for my advice in one area, there’s a lot here to talk about. You’re right, this issue does hit close to home. It hits hard. Fear over herpes transmission has caused a lot of turmoil in my life over the last six months, and it continues to do so even today with new potential lovers.
I’ll start by addressing the issue of what to tell your other partners, since that’s the one you asked about and, in my opinion, it’s the easiest. I think you’re on the right track in wanting to tell them all the facts, even the precautions you and this girl are not taking. Some people may not know about the additional protection something like valcyclovir could provide, and may feel deceived if they find out later that you knew about it but didn’t disclose. Yes, it may make the discussions more difficult, but you’re right about the importance of being truthful and making sure that everyone has all of the information they need to make a decision about their own health.
And now, I’d like to step up on my high horse for a minute and address the other part of your email…
I’m just going to come right out and say it: I think your friend is being selfish and pig-headed by refusing to take the valcyclovir. At least, based on the excuses you mentioned. Whether or not it’s true that drug companies “prey on fear” (which, to me, sounds a bit more like conspiracy theory than rational opinion), the studies show that the use of valcyclovir reduces the transmission of HSV-2. Let’s face it, people are afraid of genital herpes and that has nothing to do with drug companies. And as long as this fear exists it is in your best interest to reduce your risk of contracting it as much as possible. And, if she cares about you, it’s in her best interest to reduce the risk of passing it to you as much as possible. This is not a case of taking a drug that isn’t necessary, it’s about taking all available precautions to protect her partners from having to deal with the same health conditions and societal stigma that she has to deal with. In my opinion, popping a pill is the least she can do, considering the risks you’re taking.
Now, if she has issues with the cost of the pills or any possible side effects (which, as I understand it, are minimal) then she may have more of an argument. If, however, her only argument against this is some kind of philosophical distaste for drug companies, I would advise you to keep your dick safely in your pants and save your risk-taking for someone who places a little more value in their loved ones.
For more information on Valtrex and the spread of genital herpes, see the following links:
Valtrex Lowers Herpes Transmission – WebMD
Valtrex For Reducing Transmission of Genital Herpes – National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project
Do you have an opinion on any of the topics addressed in this email? Let’s hear them in the comments. Do you have a question you’d like me and my readers to address? Send an email to TheGirl@herknees.com.