OMG! I just found out I have a chronic STD!

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 07, 2014 8:05 PM GMT
    Recently, another RJr contacted me in regards to their exposure to a chronic STD. Here is the deidentified text of that message to me, along with my response to the RJrs feelings, comments, and questions.

    Dear GAMRICAN...
    I've read quite a few of your posts. Enough to know that you are managing to live a healthy life with HIV. And by healthy i mean that in all senses of the word- physically, mentally and spiritually. That you are open and honest about your status, not ashamed about it. I applaud you and respect you.
    I don't have HIV. I have another virus that is going to be along for the ride for the rest of my life- HSV 2, aka genital herpes. Got diagnosed (length of time) ago.
    Not that it really matters how i got it, but suffice it to say Ive never been grossly irresponsible with my sexuality.

    But i still struggle with feelings of worth. Even before being diagnosed I disliked the whole "clean" vs "dirty" way of talking about disease status. And slut shaming has always been something i hate seeing. Obviously, now it hits closer to home. Mostly because I struggle with not internalizing thinking of myself as 'dirty' and tainted. I really try to not dwell on the past and trying to guess who gave it to me (40% of MSM have it and 90% of those don't know they have it.) I try to not play the "if i had only slept with x number of guys instead of y guys I'd never have gotten it."

    My man hasn't left me over it. I can't be sure till he gets the right test but in retrospect i am 99.9+% sure i picked it up before meeting him. (He likes his doctor but I don't think he's up to speed on gay mens health because he doesn't seem to be aware that there are now antibody tests for HSV that can distinguish type 1 and 2...) So far theres no evidence I have given it to him. I told him right away of course because i care about him. But we haven't done anything remotely sexual since I was diagnosed.

    I really appreciate how he has been kind about it and even helped me find humor in it. But i am really missing physical intimacy. There are lots of reasons we aren't having sex right now, but part of it is the herpes by his own admission. It is obviously a difficult topic for me to broach but I force myself to talk about it with him. And I am absolutely sure that he isn't getting any from someone else. If he wanted that he'd just (do it).

    At first, when i was diagnosed, I thought about it all the time. Not so much anymore. I don't think about it most days and when i do i can most of the time tell myself that its not my fault, I didn't give it to myself, I don't 'deserve' it, etc. Sometimes i even believe all of that! But if I get an outbreak it makes me feel like shit (mentally). Thankfully it's been a (length of time) and counting since the last outbreak. Supposedly they get milder and more infrequent with time.

    I'm not trying to imply that HSV and HIV are the same thing. Obviously the practical consequences of the former is not even in the same category as the latter in terms of threat to health and need for medications. Some people take a daily suppression medication but my doctor insists that i don't need it. He's an infectious disease specialist who primarily treats LGBT patients. Im one of his few patients who isn't seropositive! He's a great doctor, gave me his cell # and encourages me to text whenever i have a question.

    I'm not sure what I want you to tell me. I just don't know where to go from here.
    How do i get my guy to see me the same way as before? How do I see myself as worthy of love and desire? I feel so much gratitude to my man, but i also know that if I had known and told him before we met about this we would never have met. (we met through a hookup app for what was supposed to be a one night stand.)

    The physical health consequences of HSV I've pretty much researched on my own so I'm not expecting you to do that for me! I've read the medical literature and evaluated it. Not a whole lot out there unfortunately. I take lysine and zinc, weak evidence that they help the immune system keep it under control. And I'm starting back with yoga to help with stress reduction.
    Anyway, i am rambling at this point.

    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful note. Yes, I am doing what I can within what is in my control to live a full, healthy life despite HIV.

    You've shared a great deal of your feelings with me, as well as some questions. I hope you will follow along with me as I address some of the feelings you shared, as well as some responses to your questions.

    Regarding “how you got it” and playing the “who gave it to me” guessing game, I applaud you for your mindful attempts to let it go. From my own experience, I agree with you that it's no longer important how you got it or from whom. To dwell would be to waste time and energy on nothing which will bring solace or peace. Dwelling also “brings you down” and life is too short to be “down”.

    Regarding feelings of worth, and feelings of being “clean” vs. “dirty”, abstracting this issue upward are the broader issues of stigma and stereotype. These are very powerful issues which continue to plague our world today. And, depending upon where you are in the world, the level of educated awareness of the general population and the local LGBT population can make a big difference on how this impacts a person's life. A person's own acceptance and confidence in their own health situation is fundamental to combating feelings of low self-worth, stigma, and subsequently stereotype. From my own experience over the past 30 years of living with HIV, my acceptance and confidence have grown to be very strong. And, in a vulnerable moment I can still be hurt very deeply by an ignorant comment or rejection. Today, I am able to speak loudly, proudly, and publicly about my STD status out of a sense of purpose and passion to combat ignorance so that others may not have to suffer what I have gone through. This is probably not the answer you want to hear, but maintaining feelings of high self-worth while combating stigma and stereotype is a never ending battle. It can, however, be a life-long source of strength and hope for others, purpose and passion for myself.

    Regarding physical intimacy issues with serodiscordant partners (no matter what the STD may be), this is a hot topic in the world today, it is one for which there is no easy answer, however it is one for which there is a realistically achievable next step...communication. First, I applaud you for your forthright honesty with your partner. Nothing can wreck a relationship faster than keeping a secret like this for any length of time. As long as there is open and honest communication, there is hope that the relationship can continue in some form or fashion. My suggestion to all couples (not just ones who are serodiscordant) is that a combination of individual and couples counseling is a proactive approach to investing in any relationship which may have value to continue. Specifically, each person is going to need to work on their own issues individually. Sexual risk management is suggested to be one topic in particular to address. And, then each of the individuals needs to come together to work through “the dance” to learn about the other partner's communication paradigms (aka “psychological baggage”), communication style, needs, wants, dreams, and then to discuss if there are options for a mutually fulfilling path forward together.

    ...(end of part 1)
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 07, 2014 8:11 PM GMT
    ...(Part 2 of 2)

    Regarding medical treatments for chronic STD conditions, it has been my experience that early pharmacological treatment has been successful in my case. I am fortunate that I have had no ill side effects. In your particular case, check with your physician as to the risk/benefit of any options regarding the possibility of a less frequent use of “daily suppression medication” or other treatments which, in combination with alternative nutrient supplementation, yoga and other stress reduction approaches can make your particular chronic condition as infrequent as possible. This may also help to build confidence and trust with your partner that physical intimacy may be possible with very low risk.

    Thank you for contacting me and please feel free to contact me via private message again if you have follow on questions or comments.

    Aloha and Be Well!