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Trying to live and love with two horrible options--Condoms and Valtrex


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Here’s my story:

In March I separated from my husband and soon met the love of my life. After I got his test results for every STD in the book, we had lots of raging unprotected sex. He had oral HSV-1 which did not worry me, although I did not have it as far as I knew. I was waiting to get my whole battery of tests done until six months after my last sexual contact, which would have been now-- September. He was not worried about having unprotected sex with me despite the fact that he had not yet seen my test results.

In July he and I met for a three day love fest. Within two days I had prodromal symptoms and three days later a mild herpes outbreak. I was completely shocked. I assumed I had caught type-1 from him through oral sex, especially after I did some research online and discovered that “asymptomatic shedding” can occur. But I had to wait four days for my test results from my doctor, all the time assuming I had type-1. When the results came back I had type-2, meaning that I had not caught this from my boyfriend and that he was now at risk by being with me—a complete shock to us both. We are still waiting for three months to elapse so that he can be tested to see if he’s already caught type-2 from me.

Here are the things which are torturing me:

1) We hate using condoms and they aren’t working well for us. We have a lot of sex and they cause skin irritation for both him and me. And he sometimes loses his hard-on with condoms, which is horrible. Even worse, he gets rashes from the condoms which scare him into thinking he has caught herpes.

2) I am very fearful of taking medication every day, in this case Valtrex for suppressive purposes to protect my partner. I have read a lot of scary stuff about the potential short and long term side effects and that one can become dependant on the drug, meaning that once off the drug more outbreaks than ever can and do occur. I am an all-organic, drug-free person and hate the idea of poisoning my body with any kind of medication, especially one that does not provide 100% protection for my partner. Further, I want to take at least one year off medication to see how my body fights the virus on its own (with vitamins and herbs), although I believe I've had this virus in my system for years and that I have been assymptomatic. If I never get another outbreak, it seems that taking Valtrex is almost superfluous (although I realize the abscence of outbreaks doesn't mean there is a complete absence of assymptomatic shedding. But I have been told by a herpes resercher that there is significantly less shedding in the absence of outbreaks).

3) When the condoms weren’t working for us, my partner decided, for a brief time, that he would take his chances, that I am the love of his life and that getting herpes isn’t as bad as having a condom between us. Then, after several days of great unprotected sex, he went into a major episode of fear. He realized that he does want some protection and, although he was aware of my fear of taking Valtrex, asked me to take it for a few months while he “gets his head around” the situation. I sensed this might be a deal-breaker for us and I reluctantly agreed to take the drug. We went on a trip to France and I took Valtrex for twenty days then stopped when my partner went home to Chicago where he lives. I agreed to take the drug for a few months whenever we are together, which is usually two weeks out of the month, but I know I will not be able to agree to take it for the long term, although in my heart I want to protect him and don’t want him to catch herpes from me. And I am afraid that he will not be able to overcome his fear of catching herpes, i.e. will never get to the point where he can fearlessly have unprotected sex with me. He has even said that he hopes he already has caught it so that we won’t have to worry anymore. But if he hasn’t, it seems we will be destined to a life of vascillating between two horrible options—condoms and Valtrex. And that we will never find peace. I have a persistant irrational fear that we will break up over this, that my taking Valtrex for now is just postponing the inevitable.

We were so in love and happy before we got this news. Meeting each other felt—and still does feel—like the greatest miracle of our lives. But the herpes has created a lot of problems and triggered many fears in both of us. Deep down, I will feel he doesn’t truly love me if he insists that I take Valtrex for as long as we are together, and he will feel I don’t truly love him if I don’t use this method of protecting him. As rediculous as this sounds, it's true. Although he would rather not, he has said we can go back to condoms but, as I said, they do not feel like a viable long-term option for us as they cause pain and discomfort both physically and emotionally. We have both just come out of sexless marriages and the quality of our sex is hugely important to us.

I love my partner unconditionally and actually didn’t feel that badly about having caught this from him (when I thought I had type-1) as I hope to be with him for the rest of my life. But when it became clear that he was at risk being with me, the tables turned big time. Suddenly he was not okay with the idea of catching this from me. It’s difficult for me to put myself in his position and understand what he calls his “primal fear” of catching genital herpes since I now know it's not a big deal, at least physically . Part of me feels like he’s being a complete wimp, that my man—the true love of my life--would not be afraid. This virus is part of me and I need him to love all of me. And I was willing to catch type-1 from him. But people are different. He is squeamish about any kind of pain and has a low tolerance for it.

Of course the medical professionals advise both condoms AND Valtrex. But fifiteen years ago my friends with herpes simply avoided sex when they had outbreaks and they never had any problems as far as I know.

So there you have it. My story. Any advice or insights you can offer would be so welcome and appreciated. I have thought of joining a local support group but feel afraid I will run into someone I know. In fact, I'm not even sharing this news with my friends who have herpes because I don't want the news to spread. How sad that this virus is so embarrassing. BTW, in Europe the virus is much more common and more socially acceptable, apparently. Maybe we should all move to Paris!

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My sympathy and empathy to you- it sounds like you have been suffering a lot because of this!

My story is this- I got HSV-2 over a year ago from a one night stand, and I was overcome with shame, grief, embarrassment, and worries that no one would want to be with me sexually again. In addition to all of this, I was very anti-Valtrex as a daily suppressant (as I took no medication), and worked to adjust my diet- but I had constant full-blown, painful OBs.

Since then (January?) I have reevaluated my sexual choices, met an amazing man, and decided that my love for him and desire for him to not get herpes (because I don't wish this on anyone), as well as my desire to not have an outbreak every 2 weeks, was more important than my not wanting to take western medicine- so I decided to take Valtrex daily for a year. And it's been worth it for my and my boyfriend's health, for being symptom free, and for my peace of mind!

I've also let go of the shame I was carrying- who CARES if I get a blister on my crotch? It doesn't lead to cervical cancer, it won't make me sterile, it's not deadly, and as long as I continue to be cautious and conscious- it's not going to spread to other parts of my body and (hopefully) not to anybody else. I don't go around town telling everybody, but I also don't feel like I have some deep dark terrible secret to hide. Because I don't. Having herpes is not a judgment on my character, it is not an indication of my sex-life or preferences, it is not karma or a punishment from god, and it is most definitely not the end of the world/my life.

I would encourage you to continue to seek support, from this forum, and especially from your friends who have been through this! You worry about "the news spreading"- is that fear really more important to you than gaining support and comfort from your friends/ from support groups ? Also, I believe elsewhere on this site are posts about herbal medicines that help herpes symptoms and suppression. Continue to read and learn and connect- and what I would say is the most important thing (was for me) is to accept yourself and the situation you are in without judgment or blame, and love yourself! (cheesy to some, i know, but i believe i would have suffered much less if I hadn't been beating myself up!)

good luck!

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I so appreciate your quick response and support. And I applaud your decision to take care of yourself and your partner by opting for Valtrex. I must admit that if I were having frequent outbreaks I would do the same, no questions asked. But I am assymptomatic--a terribel case of poison oak clobbered my immune system and triggered my first and only outbreak in July. I am quite sure I have been postive for HSV-type 2 for many years. My (soon to be ex) husband's previous wife had it and I probably got it from him, although he has never been tested and has no intention of being tested.

So my question is: would you still take the Valtrex if you knew you were assymptomatic? Would you take it to protect your partner, even though his chances of catching it from you were almost zero? And what will you do after this year of Valtrex is up? Then you and your partner will be back to square one (just as me and my partner will be) when you are no longer protecting him. Also, are you using condoms in addition to Valtrex? If not, will you go back to condoms when you quit the Valtrex? These are all questions you may not be able to anwer now, and questions which I cannot even answer for myself. But I am struggling with these questions. I do not want to lose the man who has supported me through this whole herpes ordeal, and yet I know I'm not willing to take Valtrex for the rest of my life. Part of me would rather be alone and healthy than in reltionship but with compromised health due to long-term Valtrex use. Sometimes I joke with him about going to a herpes dating site but there is a kernal of truth in every joke. Being with a type-2 carrier would be so much easier in so many ways.

Thanks for writing back,


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Any Distinguished members out there?

Calling all distinguished members! Do you have anything to offer here? My friend Lady Lightness and I could really use some of your insights and advice.

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