Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Updates: “Disappointed in Her” Responds

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from “Disappointed in Her” who was disappointed that her good friend was refusing to tell her new boyfriend about her STD. “What can I do?” She asked. “Should I insist that my friend tell him? Should I get our other two close girlfriends to talk to her with me? She is very immature and I think she is trying to pretend like it isn’t a big deal (it is.) I’m upset that she sees it as a non-issue when I remember how devastated she was when she was diagnosed.” After the jump, find out whether she was able to convince her friend to do the right thing.

First and foremost, thank you so much for picking my question and the excellent advice you gave. And an even bigger thank you to all the readers who gave their input. It was so enlightening to hear so many different people’s opinions. I have an update for everyone and unfortunately, it isn’t a happy one.My friend came to visit the same day the letter was posted and I asked her how things were going with her new love interest. I gently brought up the fact that our last conversation about her STD had made me kind of uncomfortable and I asked her to reconsider not telling him. I explained to her that it is just best to put important things on the table, and waiting for it to come out in other ways could lead to a lot of backlash from him and lots of heartbreak for her. I worked so hard to not come off as judgmental, and made sure to check my tone the whole time we were talking, and to choose my words very carefully. To say she didn’t take it well is an understatement. She scolded me for my concern and told me she won’t tell him now, never will tell him and that if he breaks up with her over this, then she’ll just have to deal with the breakup.

I still don’t feel like it’s my place to tell him, and for everyone speculating, yes, the STD was herpes (not HPV, which probably wouldn’t have made me as concerned, although it still is serious!). But my friend seems to be in denial about the whole thing. I reminded her how devastated she was and how she shouldn’t feel bad about having it, because it isn’t her fault she got it, but she does need to tell sexual partners about it. She claimed that if they began considering themselves a couple, she might tell him. Well, newsflash world, herpes doesn’t hold off until you decide you wanna date someone! I also discovered that she thinks sleeping together “isn’t enough to warrant” telling him. Call me old fashioned, but I’d like to know if my partner has had any STDS BEFORE we get started having sex.

What also concerned me was her lack of knowledge about the STD. She said her gynecologist told her it was OK to not tell him and just use a condom during sex, because she’ll probably never have an outbreak and the risk of him catching it is less than 1%. I don’t think that’s correct and I know some of the comments would probably argue against that.

What I didn’t get to say to her, and I so wish I had, is that this is NOT HER CHOICE! The choice of endangering someone’s health and well-being is THEIR CHOICE. That is why I am so concerned. What if the situation was reversed? She also thinks that she doesn’t need to protect anyone else because no one protected her in the first place. As I said in my original letter, she is very immature and this whole thing is making me seriously reconsider our friendship. I value honesty above anything in my life, and to have a “friend” who is so immoral as to put people’s health at risk because she doesn’t think it a big deal just isn’t something I can stand for.

Wendy, readers, you were all so great and I appreciate your feedback. I am really sad for my friend that she is so so SO immature and selfish that she can’t see that what she’s doing is wrong. What has come of all this is a reevaluation of why I’m friends with a person like this. Thank you, guys, for helping me to approach this right, and even if I lose a friend over this, I’ll still have my values, which I would never hope to compromise.

PS. And as a side note, I once dated a guy who had herpes and he told me right off the bat. We worked around it and that was 4 years ago and I’m still clean (which my friend knew all about). So telling someone isn’t the end. It’s just waiting until its too late or things have gone too far that makes for a bad outcome.

 
Thanks for your update. I’m so sorry to hear there was a better outcome — for your sake, your friend’s sake, and especially the sake of the poor guy who is now unknowingly being exposed to an STD. I, personally, wouldn’t blame you for questioning your friendship with this woman. Sometimes it takes issues like this to focus on the kinds of flaws was can and simply can’t accept in the people we closely associate with. Good luck to you.

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

164 comments… add one
  • avatar

    MJ October 20, 2011, 12:11 pm

    If she isn’t having an outbreak, and they’re using condoms, than chances are good that he won’t get herpes. Pretty sure her gyno is right.

    BUT SHE STILL HAS TO TELL HIM! What does she think is going to happen when she brings this up if they become a couple…

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      spark October 20, 2011, 6:56 pm

      I agree, especially if she’s on Valtrex.

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        Francine October 21, 2011, 4:57 pm

        I agree that she still has to tell him. He should be given the opportunity to decide for himself if 1% (or whatever it is) is a risk he’s okay with taking.

        LW is right, her friend is extremely immature. Sounds like she enjoyed being exposed and infected so much that she’s decided she’d like to be the kind of person who does that to others. Not sure I’d want to count that kind of person among my friends.

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      TaxMan October 27, 2011, 4:05 pm

      Wow, I’m pissed for this guy and I don’t even know him. She absolutely needs to tell him. It’s one thing if he chooses to expose himself, but another if she knowingly exposes him with out his consent. They have put people in prison for doing this kind of thing when they knew they had AIDS. I know Herpes isn’t deadly like AIDS is, but it is just as incurable. So, I know if it was me and I found out my girlfriend was doing something like that the relationship would be over, and I would be contacting law enforcement and a lawyer. That disease alters your life in a big and permanent way. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t as deadly. At the very least something like that should be punished with a assault and battery charge, or a very large punitive judgement in a civil suit.

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  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didn't October 20, 2011, 12:12 pm

    Hmm…..if it was HPV I would drop it and never speak to this person again. But it’s herpes. I dunno, I’d be kind of inclined to tell the guy….it’s not like you’re worried about losing the friendship and she is being incredibly unsafe and unfair.

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    • JK

      JK October 20, 2011, 12:26 pm

      That´s what I was thinking, if LW was planning to write off the “friend”, I´d tell the guy. It´s incredibly unfair that he´s unwittingly exposing himself to herpes.

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      • freckles

        cdubs October 20, 2011, 12:40 pm

        I agree. After the friend reacting that way, I’d dump her and tell the guy. And not feel guilty about it either.

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      • caitie_didnt

        caitie_didn't October 20, 2011, 12:46 pm

        I’d feel more guilty NOT telling the guy, if it were me.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar October 20, 2011, 12:23 pm

    Sorry your friend is a horrible person who thinks nothing of endangering another. For me, this crosses the line from being merely irresponsible to having a deliberately reckless disregard for another’s safety. It definitely speaks to her character. You did try your best to help the boyfriend and shouldn’t feel bad that your conversation didn’t go as it should have. I’d rethink my friendship with someone like that too.

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      Britannia October 20, 2011, 12:36 pm

      I agree. She’s obviously an incredibly selfish, ignorant, and disrespectful person. I would break off my relationship with her and make sure she knew why.

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      Amanda October 20, 2011, 7:34 pm

      Absolutely agree. LW, from your description your friend sounds like an an epic failure as a decent human being. Dump this toxic “friend” and tell the guy. Her relationship is already doomed anyway because she chose to endanger her partner’s health.

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    eelizg23 October 20, 2011, 12:28 pm

    Yeah, that’s unfortunate. She really should tell him, especially because herpes is not really as big of a deal as everyone likes to make it out to be.

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      MsMisery October 20, 2011, 1:07 pm

      It isn’t a big deal if it’s treated properly, but it IS a big deal if you’re completely nonchalant about it and don’t care abut your sex partner.

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        eelizg23 October 20, 2011, 1:50 pm

        Yeah, my point is that by not telling him, she’s making it into a lot bigger of an issue than it is.

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    iseeshiny October 20, 2011, 12:30 pm

    That blows. Nothing like being disappointed in a friend to make you feel crummy. If you do end up ending the friendship, though, it might help to emphasize to the girl that, yes, it actually is a dealbreaker and you might make an impact where the discussion evidently did not. Small consolation, I know.

    (Even if she does end up telling him when they “get serious,” if I’d been sleeping with someone x amount of time and I find out that they’ve had herpes all along I would be so very, very out of there. Cause they were either lying when I asked if they were clean or cheating on me and picked it up after. And I wouldn’t really care which.)

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  • avatar

    Ashley October 20, 2011, 12:33 pm

    I thought it was against the law to know that you have an STD and fail to tell your partner…I could be wrong, but I know that there have been cases where people have gone to jail/prison for failing to tell their partner they had HIV/AIDS. It might not be this way depending on the STD the LW’s friend has, but it’s just something to think about

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      Britannia October 20, 2011, 12:41 pm

      It’s possible to make a case for reckless endangerment, but so far that has only been done in a case where a man with HIV had unprotected sex with something like 5 women and he only got ONE SINGLE YEAR in jail. Frankly, I think that there should be laws enacted to protect people from assholes like him and the LW’s friend.

      If I ever contract an STD from someone and I find out they knew about it beforehand and didn’t bother telling me, I will sue for all future health care expenses related to contraction of said disease, and so that they have some sort of blight on their record. More people should be suing for this sort of thing. They’re willing to sue over just about anything these days, some things which make the sue-er look really effing stupid, but no one’s suing for something legitimate like this. There needs to be a “revolution” in this area of the law.

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        HmC October 20, 2011, 1:33 pm

        The problem with persecuting the act of knowingly transmitting an STD is that it discourages people from getting tested in the first place. We don’t need more discouragement, people don’t get tested enough as it is. And suing is only usually effective if someone is wealthy enough to bother suing. Case law does look like it’s moving in the direction of criminalizing such behavior, but I have my doubts about how far they can take that. I don’t know what the answer is. 🙁 Raising more moral human beings in the first place I guess. Easier said than done!

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        Britannia October 20, 2011, 1:58 pm

        I know that this opens up a can of worms, but I’m of the opinion that willful ignorance is unacceptable, and that’s part of why I think that everyone should have regular STD testing. To me, it’s really effing depressing that some people are willing to “maybe” pass along STDs rather than be responsible. I’m not sure that I can agree that such people deserve to have the liberty to infect other people and then claim ignorance. Unfortunately, this all has tons of grey area right now and it’s hard, even for me, to know where exactly the line should be drawn.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 2:29 pm

        Right?? I mean, we should FORCE EVERYONE to get tested for ALL STDs, and then if they’re positive, post their names to a registry, like we do for sex offenders! We have to work out the kinks, though, like… how often should they be tested? Every month? Annually? Does it change for married people? At what age do we start testing people? And if they get something incurable? QUARANTINE them. For life.

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        Britannia October 20, 2011, 2:34 pm

        *Heavy sigh*

        Of course someone would go there. Despite it not being anywhere close to being what I said. When people refuse to be responsible for themselves, what are we supposed to do? Just let them fuck up other peoples’ lives? No, we don’t need to go all “Gestapo” on them, but LW’s letter itself highlights the point that there are incredibly destructive people out there who can just say, “Oh, I didn’t know” and get away with hurting other people. That’s not right and something needs to be done about it.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 3:05 pm

        I know that’s not what you meant.

        Regular HIV and STD testing IS already recommended for everyone ages 13 – 64 at least annually, more depending on your risk. HIV testing used to be mainly volunteer, but the CDC has recommended that it be included in “routine” testing for EVERYONE, annually, regardless of reported risk. Most communicable diseases are reportable to the health department (as in BY LAW required to be reported), and the health department follows up – making sure infected individuals get adequate treatment and making every effort to notify possibly exposed partners. Not just for STDs, but for other things too, like TB for instance (think Contagion).

        There are also existing laws in most states making it illegal to intentionally transmit HIV. I’m just not sure what more you want?

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        Britannia October 20, 2011, 3:10 pm

        I suppose what I want is to protect the public from the repercussions of other peoples’ dumbassery, to put it in layman’s terms. Recommending and requiring are very different things. No, I’m not saying that we should have “registries” beyond reporting anonymous statistics to the CDC, but I do think that requiring people to know their health status would cut out their ability to claim ignorance and thus get away with hurting other people. Put responsibility in their own hands. It’s really sad that it’s come to the point where we have to consider FORCING people to be considerate and responsible in order to protect the general public, but that’s where our society is at.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 3:25 pm

        Yeah, it just wouldn’t go over well with people. Look at the Gardasil debate!

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      • avatar

        Flake October 20, 2011, 2:44 pm

        AGAIN, condoms may not prevent this particular STD. You can be doing everything right and still get it. You can have it for years before being diagnosed with it. It doesn’t change the fact that you have no right knowingly putting someone else’s health in danger. What if this was drunk-driving?? One could be the most careful person in the world, and then some asshole who thinks that his/her comfort is more important than other person’s, who says,”so what, everybody does it” goes out and runs someone over. You cannot knowingly endanger others.

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        Slamy October 20, 2011, 6:44 pm

        I had a friend (not friends anymore) who said she would never get tested because she was too scared of what the results would be. She was pretty promiscuous. Didn’t think it was gross to sleep with two guys in one night, never used condoms (by her admission), etc.

        Then my ex cheated on me with her. I had *just* gotten tested (clean!), but now I have to get tested again. I’m not planning on sleeping with anyone for a while, anyway, but I am pretty disgusted.

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    • caitie_didnt

      caitie_didn't October 20, 2011, 12:42 pm

      I think it’s only if the STD is life-threatening (which really limits it to HIV). Although I’m sure if you really wanted to do it, you could file a civil suit against someone who knowingly exposed you to any type of infection.

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  • avatar

    stilgar666 October 20, 2011, 12:33 pm

    Yeah, if it were me, I would tell the dude, and dump the friend.

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      Carolynasaurus October 20, 2011, 12:56 pm

      Wendy, this one really needs a poll: who thinks she should still tell the boyfriend about the potential exposure to herpes and who thinks she should just butt out?

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        SpaceySteph October 20, 2011, 2:30 pm

        Sorry, off topic, but I love your avatar. Very much!

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        Carolynasaurus October 20, 2011, 5:26 pm

        Thank you! This just made my day!

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  • avatar

    EB October 20, 2011, 12:38 pm

    If she wants to have sex but refuses to disclose her herpes, I would tell your friend to go fuck herself.

    pretty sure the CDC will back me on this…

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  • avatar

    bethany October 20, 2011, 12:40 pm

    Since it sounds like you’re clearly done with this friendship, I’d go ahead and tell the guy now. At this point, you have nothing to lose, and he has a whole lot to gain from the knowledge.
    Even if you don’t tell him exactly what’s going on, you could give him some hints and tell him that he needs to talk to her. You could save him from something life changing. Wouldn’t you want someone to do that for you?

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  • avatar

    Sarah October 20, 2011, 12:41 pm

    Her gynecologist is an idiot for telling her that. Yeah, condoms reduce the chance of transferring herpes, but the reduction is much LESS when the woman is trying to prevent giving herpes to her partner instead of the other way around. Women can get herpes in any part of their genital area and there is a ton of contact that still can be made with or without a condom. And btw, unless she’s sporting a female condom while it happens, oral sex is also INCREDIBLY dangerous for the guy to perform on her. And is this girl even taking anti virals? She better be. Even so, using anti-virals and condoms only reduces the chance of transferring herpes by 75%, not 99% percent. And has the girl ever heard of asymptomatic transmission?? Women also often get herpes inside their vagina that can’t be seen at superficial levels. (Lol, I may or may not be terrified of getting herpes)

    I am so astounded that this stupid stupid friend of the LW is not taking more care in how she deals with this virus. It honestly should be a crime to not tell a partner information like this. The worst part is is that she thinks she’s doing it to protect the relationship….because hearing “yeah, I had herpes that whole time and didn’t tell you” six months after you’ve been sleeping together is a GREAT way to keep a relationship strong.Pleease tell this guy what he’s in for. Wouldn’t you want to know, even from a stranger?

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    • avatar

      silver_dragon_girl October 20, 2011, 12:58 pm

      Shit, now *I’m* terrified of getting herpes.

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    • avatar

      Flake October 20, 2011, 2:18 pm

      Not to mention the significantly increased risk of a caesarian section, when/if the woman decides to have a child.

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      Slamy October 20, 2011, 6:46 pm

      My thought was that she is probably going to act like she never knew she had it…

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    SGMcG October 20, 2011, 12:44 pm

    I’m sorry your efforts to convince your friend failed. Your friend’s choices and behavior just reinforces why misogyny still exists. I know you don’t feel it’s your place to tell the guy, but I think you should reconsider that stance. If you’re questioning your friendship with her, telling him about her herpes would definitely end it – yet at least it’s consistent with your values. Your friend may not be symptomatic now, but is she taking any medication to cut those symptoms and/or decreasing her sexual activity when the symptoms flair? Based on your experience with someone who has herpes, I think your rational can be justified in telling this guy, even if she chooses not to tell him.

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    • avatar

      iseeshiny October 20, 2011, 1:45 pm

      I agree she should tell the guy. Maybe even offer the girl a chance to woman up first by offering an ultimatum if she’s really done with the friendship (if you don’t tell him, I will).

      I am curious, though, what this has to do with misogyny? I’m not sure where you’re coming from with that.

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        SGMcG October 20, 2011, 3:03 pm

        I’m saying that her friend’s behavior is all sorts of shady and it’s feeds into the rationale of why some guys become misogynists. Her friend chooses not to disclose her herpes to this boyfriend until they become absolutely serious, thus making the guy have no choice but to stick with the girl he’s seeing, otherwise he’d be labelled a cad for dumping her once she DOES tell the truth about her STD. I’m not saying that he doesn’t have the right to make the choice like that, but someone can easily justify their breaking up with someone through her shadiness, feeding into her misogyny. It’s rambly reasoning at best, and I’m not explaining it right – so my apologies in advance.

        LW, reading your letter reminded me of the time my friend called me with a similar dilemma as your immature friend. I eventually convinced my friend to disclose her herpes to the guy she was seeing (and had already consummated the relationship with) by telling her that a relationship which failed to be built from trust would never be built to last. Whether the lie was actually committed, or done through an act of omission of important information (like the potential exposure to an STD), if there are lies in the relationship as it’s forming, it’s not built to last.

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        plasticepoxy October 21, 2011, 11:17 am

        I thought misogyny was hatred of women/girls. I mean, that doesn’t mean she can’t be misogynistic, but the way I’m reading your comment, you’re saying that this will cause her to misogyny, and I’m not sure what you mean.

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        plasticepoxy October 21, 2011, 11:19 am

        I can’t edit my post, for some reason, I meant to say, “…will cause her to be misogynistic”. I think though, that you might have meant misandry, which is the equivalent of misogyny, but against men/males.

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      • avatar

        SGMcG October 21, 2011, 11:22 am

        I mean HIM. Her behavior will cause the guy to be miogynistic.

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  • avatar

    Meredith October 20, 2011, 12:54 pm

    If I may play Devil’s Advocate, I can understand how the friend feels as I WAS her for a long time. It’s not right but at the same time, I don’t think that anyone that does not have herpes can understand the intense shame and embarrassment that comes with that diagnosis. Yes, you understand intellectually that it isn’t your fault (assuming that the person that you caught it from didn’t tell you about it), that lots of people have it and that in the larger scheme of things it’s not that big of a deal. Emotionally though, I felt dirty, stained and like no one would ever love me if they knew about it. So I told no one, for years. I was very careful, I took suppressing drugs, used condoms and never had sex on the rare occasions that I had a breakout so I justified it to myself that not telling them was ok.

    Of course, as I matured I realized what I was doing was wrong and finally told the person I had just started dating. Let me tell you how TERRIFYING that was. Not only am I exposing myself to potential disgust and being dumped, but I am entrusting my biggest, most shameful secret to someone who I may like but ultimately don’t know that well and that I have no guarantee won’t turn around and tell everyone I know. (which, btw, happened with one of my exes after a really bad breakup. luckily he didn’t know that many of my friends). In the end I have had a happy ending as I am now engaged to an amazing man who knows and accepts and loves me anyway. We are very careful and have been together for 5 years and he is still clean.

    I guess my point is that yes, she should be telling him and yes she is handling this pretty immaturely (as did I). But can we have a little compassion for how ashamed and scared she probably is? It’s easy to pass judgement when you haven’t been in that situation but not so easy when you’re walking in those shoes.

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      Britannia October 20, 2011, 1:18 pm

      I’m sorry but I cannot muster a whole lot compassion for someone who knows that they are passing along an incurable, lifelong virus to their unwitting sex partners simply because they’re ashamed or scared. I don’t have sympathy for someone who would infect another person with the same disease that they find so shameful.

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        Meredith October 20, 2011, 1:33 pm

        I can understand how you would feel that way but I wonder if it would be so easy for you if you were the one with herpes. I had a friend that found out and judged me just exactly the way you and everyone else here is judging both the friend and me. Then years later she contracted herpes too and when she came to me she apologized and said that she had had no idea what I had been going through and that she could now understand how I could have acted the way that I did.

        Again, I am not saying that the LW’s friend is right in any way. I’m saying that you are all being very judgey for people that have more than likely never been in the position that the friend is in. It’s easy to say that YOU would NEVER do this horrible, horrendous thing and that anyone that would is a bad person from the safe height of your soapbox but no one knows how they would react until it happens. People are human and they make mistakes, sometimes really bad ones.

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        mf October 20, 2011, 1:56 pm

        It’s doesn’t matter if it’s not easy – it’s simply wrong to expose someone to herpes without their consent.

        I understand the need for compassion, but the LW tried to talk to her friend kindly and in a non-judgey way and the friend still doesn’t get it. At this point, maybe the friend needs a wake up to realize that there’s no excuse for what she’s doing.

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        mf October 20, 2011, 2:13 pm

        Whoops. I meant “a wake up call.”

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        KAM October 20, 2011, 2:36 pm

        @Meredith – I think what most people should pull from your post above is that you and your current fiance *did* discuss your diagnosis when you started dating (no matter how long it took you to get there in the first place). I won’t pretend to even know how difficult that must have been and I applaud you for gaining the maturity to be upfront about the issue. The problem I think most people have here is that the LW’s friend insists on waiting until things get serious before she even *considers* divulging the info about her diagnosis. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned but I feel like if you can’t even talk about the issues that come along with sex (STD’s included), then you shouldn’t be having sex in the first place. And with a slightly more judgey spin, I’ll just add, it sounds like, with the LWs friend’s maturity level, so shouldn’t be procreating anytime soon anyway. This world’s got enough immature people running around as it is.

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        Meredith October 20, 2011, 3:56 pm

        Thank you. Every time I’ve had to tell someone, it’s terrifying. No one likes rejection and putting yourself out there for it is difficult. I am ashamed of my past behavior but there’s nothing I can do about it now other than move forward and take solace in the fact that the likelihood that I passed it on is very small.

        I guess I just understand how the LW’s friend feels. I was pretty young when I got it (I got it from my first real boyfriend, the second person that I had ever had sex with) and I remember being that scared and that ashamed and that angry. I had a hard time even admitting it to myself for a while immediately after my diagnosis. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

        I appreciate that you see where I am coming from. I wish I could talk to her friend, it sounds like she needs support from people who can understand.

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      Painted_lady October 20, 2011, 1:55 pm

      No, no, and no. Being afraid and ashamed doesn’t give you a pass on acting like a decent human being. I have a lot of compassion for anyone who gets a virus they didn’t ask for, especially given the awful stigma our sex-negative culture pawns off on people with STDs, but when that person doesn’t understand that they’re shoving the same amount of shame and fear onto another person by doing the exact same thing that was done to them, my compassion wanes a little. Shame and fear don’t prevent transmission.

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        mf October 20, 2011, 1:57 pm

        Thank you! This is what I wanted to say, but you phrased it much better.

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        Meredith October 20, 2011, 2:10 pm

        Again, I in no way shape or form have said that it’s right or OK. I know that I am putting myself out on a limb by making this argument and that I’m likely to get a lot of blowback on it. But let’s at least be clear on what my argument actually is. I am NOT saying that it’s OK or right – obviously or I wouldn’t have come to that same conclusion and started telling people myself. I’m saying that shame and fear make people do dumb things.

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        Britannia October 20, 2011, 2:11 pm

        We’re just making sure to iterate the point that being ashamed or fearful is no excuse for such behavior.

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        Painted_lady October 20, 2011, 2:25 pm

        No, fear and shame are awful. And fear and shame over something like this make me very sad. I don’t think anyone would deny that this girl is operating out of fear and shame (and selfishness, but that’s only part of it). I feel badly for her. But that doesn’t make her infection go away, and you eventually have to stop using “My life is hard!” to excuse behavior like this.

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        artsygirl October 20, 2011, 2:30 pm

        Meredith thanks for sharing your side of this. It helps to have someone speak for the LW’s friend and it is very brave of you to put yourself out there for criticism. There are always times and events in our life that we are ashamed of. I imagine that looking back in hindsight you regret putting your partners in danger of contracting even if you were as safe as you could be. It sounds like the LW’s friend is a lot more dismissive of her condition and possibly not taking as many precautions. I hope the LWs friend ends up in as good a place as you have, but I worry that she will spread the STI because of her denial before she matures to the point where she can speak to her partners about it.

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      Flake October 20, 2011, 2:22 pm

      “She also thinks that she doesn’t need to protect anyone else because no one protected her in the first place.” – Sorry, this does not deserve compassion.

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        Fabelle October 20, 2011, 2:43 pm

        In Meredith’s defense, I know someone with herpes (a guy) who does the same thing she’s saying she did: takes suppressive drugs, uses condoms, and doesn’t have sex when he has a break-out (which is also very rarely). It’s very hard because of the stigma surrounding sexual diseases, and the constant rhetoric that one can never be too careful. But when someone’s diagnosed, all of a sudden they’re hearing other things– “it’s actually not easy to pass on when you’re using protection, so many people already have it but don’t know it, etc.” I’m not surprised the gyno told her that, and my friend was told something similiar when he was diagnosed, so it’s probably accurate. She is probably taking her doctor’s words and using them to comfort herself to the point of feeling (at least on the surface) that her diagnosis is “no big deal.”

        I’m not saying it’s right for her to not tell the guy, but people with herpes have to do lots of mental twists in order to process the diagnosis to themselves & feel like their life isn’t over.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 2:46 pm

        In my opinion, in that case they should not have sex until they have processed and come to terms with their condition.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 2:53 pm

        Also, a person who is so vindictive and malicious as to say out loud that she doesn’t care if she puts other people in danger is not someone who deserves understanding. We are not only talking about the couple here. Potentially, there may be a lot of other people affected: her past partners and their partners, and their partners’ partners, and so on (on his side as well). There is a reason why this STI is so “popular”.

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        Sarah October 20, 2011, 3:39 pm

        That’s what makes me so mad at that gynecologist. Your doctor should be the person you look to for a wake up call about your health, and telling the LW’s friend that she didn’t have to tell a sexual partner was so completely irresponsible. If I ever discovered I had an STI I would be scared and would be looking for any excuse to not have to tell anyone about it. It would be vital to hear from an authority figure that that is not the reasonable solution but that I could actually have a regular sex life while also being responsible about my body.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 3:52 pm

        This makes me think that they are very young… But even then, the doctor at least should have mentioned that it definitely becomes a big deal when/if a woman decides to have children.

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      spark October 20, 2011, 7:04 pm

      I agree with Meredith and disagree with Britannia. I’d just like to add, that each person needs to be responsible for his/her own health. If I get herpes, it’s not so much my partner’s fault for not telling me he had it, but my fault for not protecting myself.

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      • avatar

        Flake October 21, 2011, 12:58 pm

        You can be the most responsible and careful person in the world, but there’s nothing you can do when people you trust deliberately put your health and well-being at risk.

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    • katie

      katie October 20, 2011, 8:42 pm

      im sorry, but i dont care at all about the feelings that lead you to knowingly infect me with a disease that I didnt ask for. that is just ridiculous, and the way you try to justify that “its not right, but it happens” is kind of sick.

      Also, if you ever want to see a change in the social stigma associated with STDs, you need to TALK about it and tell you partners about it. that is the only way that it will change. you have to be the change you wish to see in the world- that was ghandi, right? so if you want the world to be accepting and honest about STDs, YOU have to be accepting and honest about STDs. so really, your just contributing to the problem.

      “She also thinks that she doesn’t need to protect anyone else because no one protected her in the first place”…. an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind is SUCH an understatement for this….

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      thyme October 21, 2011, 2:16 pm

      Meredith – question about your sex life with your fiance: you say that he is still herpes-free after 5 years. I’m curious how you achieved that. I assume that you’re taking daily antivirals and avoid sex during outbreaks, but do you also still use condoms every time after 5 years? I ask because I got herpes from my current boyfriend, who didn’t know he had it until I started getting outbreaks. He felt horrible about it (and so did I!), but I often wonder what we would have done if we had known. Would we still be using condoms after years of being together, or even marriage, or would I have taken the risk at some point?

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      • avatar

        thyme October 21, 2011, 2:24 pm

        But as far as the LW’s friend: I was devastated when I found out that I had gotten herpes from my bf, but he didn’t know and felt absolutely awful too, so I didn’t hold it against him. BUT if he HAD known and hadn’t shared that info with me before the FIRST time we had sex, I would have been furious (even if I hadn’t caught it from him!), and I can’t imagine working through that with a person. The LW’s friend is setting herself up for relationship disaster.

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    MissDre October 20, 2011, 12:59 pm

    I’m going to echo what others said. If you’re going to dump her as a friend anyway, TELL THE GUY! Wouldn’t you want someone to do the same thing for you?

    This way he can protect himself from two things. #1 – Getting herpes and #2 – Investing his time in a crazy/lying/immature/sexually irresponsible chick.

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  • avatar

    Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 1:14 pm

    It frightens me a lot to know that there are people like LW’s friend out there…

    On the bright side, kudos to you LW for the way you handled the situation. You couldn’t keep her from going off at you, but you did everything in your power to handle it in a respectful way.

    I wonder if the reason people do things like this is the selfish belief that their sex life will suffer. I mean, most of us know that having an STD isn’t the end of the world, but I’m picturing a 16-year-old panicking and thinking “OMG THIS IS THE END OF MY SEX LIFE IF I TELL HIM I’LL NEVER HAVE SEX EVER AGAIN WAAAHHHH!!!” The irony being that you will infect fewer people (and avoid gaining a reputation as a disease-carrying whore) if you inform them so they can participate in protecting themselves.

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      Flake October 20, 2011, 2:14 pm

      I agree.. It is scary. Most people will tell you if they have a cold or flu so that you can protect yourself, but hiding this is ok for some reason…

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        Britannia October 20, 2011, 2:56 pm

        I agree with you, Flake. I’m one of those people who doesn’t go out in public while sick, no matter what. My godfather is a microbiologist and my mother is a nurse, and they pounded into me the facts about communicable disease and social responsibility.

        I am not shitting you, I have worn sanitary masks and gloves in public when I absolutely had to travel and was sick. Yeah it was a little weird to have everyone looking at me and probably thinking I had leprosy or something, but you know what? I’d prefer to be uncomfortable and make people wonder about me than to possibly infect other people. Consideration of one’s community is something that is vastly absent these days. It really pisses me off when, for example, someone shows up to one of my college classes and is coughing and sneezing everywhere. It’s incredibly inconsiderate and disrespectful to expose other people to infection, for any reason.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 3:02 pm

        Exactly. I am no germ-phobe, but I will take reasonable precautions not to catch something. I also have seen people in masks, especially during the flu season, and I have never thought they were weird, I just appreciated that they are considerate enough not to cough or sneeze on my neck.

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  • GertietheDino

    GertietheDino October 20, 2011, 1:17 pm

    This is exactly why I insist on my partners (and myself) being tested before we get to the happy fun naked time part of a new relationship. To not tell someone that you have exposed them to an incurable (treatable, yes, but still incurable) disease is just cruel. The LW’s “friend” is selfish and immature and needs a good reality slap. I’m more than happy to do it!

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      artsygirl October 20, 2011, 2:33 pm

      One of me guy friends makes a date out of the trip to the clinic before things get hot and heavy. They go together so it isn’t as nerve racking.

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        Emsz October 20, 2011, 3:16 pm

        That’s brilliant!

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  • Budj

    Budj October 20, 2011, 1:26 pm

    TELL HIM! SHE SUCKS!

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    tbrucemom October 20, 2011, 1:42 pm

    Her comment about her not being told by the person who gave her herpes so why should she tell stood out to me like maybe she wants to “get even” somehow. I think that if she doesn’t have an outbreak and he wears a condom he will be OK. I wonder though if you knew from the get go that someone had herpes would you even want to take a chance especially if you don’t have much time invested in the relationship. I would think if you already had feelings for that person it might be easier to accept but then again they would probably feel angry that you didn’t tell them upfront and possibly exposed them. Not an easy situation for sure.

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    ele4phant October 20, 2011, 2:00 pm

    Can I just put this out there that while she should tell him because honesty is crucial in a relationship, herpes is *not* that huge a deal.

    Yes, it has a stigma and outbreaks can be painful, but it does not cause any major health issues aside from flare-ups (unless she were to become pregnant and potentially pass it to the newborn during birth). Plus, most people who contract the disease never become symptomatic, and the truth is most of us will carry a form of herpes some point in our life.

    Still, she is being immature and selfish.

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 2:34 pm

      THANK YOU for pointing this out.

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        ele4phant October 20, 2011, 4:19 pm

        I think if people didn’t freak out so much over herpes (Oh my god herpes! Its incurable!), it would be less scary for people to tell their partners.

        If it was as simple as “BTW, I sometimes get some itchy bumps down there that are otherwise pretty harmless so we should use a condom, but its not a serious health risk” I think this whole situtation never would have happened.

        But instead, our culture makes a BFD out of herpes. There are some STDs that are very serious, and warrent that amount of gravity, but herpes are just not that bad.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 4:24 pm

        It does not matter what kind of an STI this is. It’s about not deliberately infecting other people with an incurable, sometimes symptomless, other times extremely painful and annoying disease.

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        ele4phant October 20, 2011, 4:43 pm

        No I agree, she absolutely needs to tell him, and I don’t dispute that the reality of living with herpes can be unpleasant for many.

        However, I think if our culture hadn’t built it up to seem so much more serious than it actually is, this woman, and many others, would not be so afraid to tell their partners for fear of being judged, or worse, dumped.

        Bottomline, herpes will not affect one’s ability to function normally and have a healthy sex life, nor does it come with the possibility of instigating something serious like cancer down the line.

        If we collectively decided to stop freaking out about it, I think a lot more people would feel comfortable disclosing it, and therefore, less people would deliberately infect their partners because they found that preferable to telling them outright.

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        Flake October 21, 2011, 5:59 am

        The same could be said about HIV these days.

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        ele4phant October 21, 2011, 11:21 am

        Well…no. Although treatments have vastly improved for HIV, the possibility is still there that you could get AIDs, which remains a life threatening condition. Herpes will not be life threatening.

        I am not excusing this woman’s behavior. She was wrong wrong wrong wrong WRONG to not tell her boyfriend. If you have a STI, of any severity, you are obligated to your partners.

        My point is, if people did not freak out about herpes as much as we did HIV, or HPV, then this woman would not have been “devasted” when she got a diagonsis, and she would not have been afraid to tell her boyfriend.

        Herpes is an incurable, communicative disease that sucks, but is not going to alter your life by having it. Of course you need to disclouse it if you have it, but people should react accordingly, not act like they are lepers, nor should they be treated as such.

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        Flake October 21, 2011, 12:48 pm

        HIV is not a deadly virus either, AIDS is.
        Yes it will alter your life. As I have mentioned my friend hes herpes and yes, it did change her life. Every 3-4 months she has to miss a week of work because it hurts to walk. She has to take it out of her pay because she only has two weeks of vacation a year. It also hurts to go to the bathroom. When she decides to have children, chances are because her outbreaks are pretty severe and relatively frequent, she will have to have a C-section, which is a major surgery. She now also has to go through telling people she dates that she has herpes. Fortunately, she has been with her current BF for almost 5 years and so far he appears to be clean.
        I know that some people go through their lives not even knowing that they are infected, but would you take that chance?
        Herpes also increases the risk of contracting other STDs.

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        ele4phant October 21, 2011, 1:32 pm

        I think we are arguing very points of a similar argument.

        I am not saying that having herpes is a breeze, or that it will have little to no effect on you. Its something that is a drag to deal with, you should avoid getting it if you can, and if you do end up contracting it you should do everything you can to keep your partners from contracting it too.

        I think the problem is that while we should acknowledge the very real consequences of herpes, we do people a disservice by making it seem as though it is the end of the world if they get it. If people stayed even-keeled about the diagnosis instead of thinking “OMG Herpes!”, I think that the fear and stigma about it would go away.

        And if people weren’t afraid of being stigmatized for having it, then they would feel more comfortable being upfront about it with their partners. Which in turn would decrease the amount of transmission.

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        6napkinburger October 21, 2011, 1:46 pm

        Hey, this all might be kind of moot soon!!!

        they have found a gel that cuts the risk of spreading herpes by half! (or something, I never trust stats in articles). Though it won’t be ready to be sold in the US for another 6 years, that will be huge!

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        thyme October 21, 2011, 2:37 pm

        Is your friend Meredith? 🙂 (scroll up to her comment)

        Agreed. It’s easy to say that herpes isn’t a big deal when you don’t have it, or you have it but are asymptomatic. I haven’t missed work during outbreaks, but I can completely relate to your friend’s plight. And it has definitely affected my sex life. When sex hurts frequently and anything other than very gentle sex can instigate an outbreak, one’s sex life is certainly affected. Just because herpes is significantly less scary than other STIs, that doesn’t mean it’s “no big deal.”

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      • avatar

        Flake October 21, 2011, 3:52 pm

        🙂 Not that I know of… The reason I am a little touchy about this subject is the friend that I am talking about used to be my best friend (she moved to another city with her guy, so we are still friends, but not as close as before). And when she found out, she was devastated and angry and disappointed… And I was a little scared too, because we shared clothing (not underwear, but swimsuits and pants. The first thing I did was go and get tested myself (after going to pick her up from the emergency room and buying the doughnut cushion). And I used to work with her, so I knew all about her outbreaks in pretty graphic detail…

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      MJ October 20, 2011, 4:22 pm

      YES. It seems like the biggest deal about herpes (aside from the people who have a really nasty outbreak) is TELLING someone you have herpes. Like, that’s the reason people don’t want it. Whereas if we all took a deep breath and realized “eh, it’s a skin condition that kind of sucks” everyone would be a lot better off. You could mention it to your partner, you could get treated, all without feeling dirty or putting yourself out there for potential rejection.

      Some of the freaking out on this thread is a bit over-the-top. There’s no reason to be terrified.

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    • katie

      katie October 20, 2011, 8:45 pm

      to me personally, it wouldn’t be the disease that was being passed, but just the fact that a lifelong incurable disease was being passed in the first place. blatantly disrespectful and downright wrong, in my book.

      its kind of like if someone throws a stuffed animal at you in anger. its not the fact that they threw a stuffed animal (which wont hurt), its just the fact that they threw something at you in anger….

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  • Tracey

    Tracey October 20, 2011, 2:02 pm

    I thought at first telling him would be the thing to do, but I couldn’t help thinking of one very likely scenario…suppose he doesn’t listen? Suppose he doesn’t believe her? Lashes out at her the way the friend did? Dismisses it as an attempt by his girlfriend’s (soon to be) former friend trying to break them up? There are too many variables here that LW can’t control. She’s done all she can and she’s tried very hard, so she should walk away from the scenario knowing she did her best to prevent drama. That’s the only happy ending from this mess.

    Here’s hoping the couple uses condoms every time they have sex, and that the man doesn’t contract anything from her…or her from him. It’s entirely possible he could be already infected with an STD himself and pass something new onto her, you know….

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      iseeshiny October 20, 2011, 2:15 pm

      I would wholeheartedly agree if it weren’t an we were talking about. If she were trying to warn him that, say, her friend was an identity thief, or had been cheating on him, or was only with him for his money, yes. But its not any of those things.

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        iseeshiny October 20, 2011, 2:17 pm

        * std. Darn phone.

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      Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 2:21 pm

      With all due respect, (because I agree that she is asking for trouble by butting in), I disagree that she should let it go. Just because it’s hard and/or carries the potential for messy consequences doesn’t keep it from being the right thing to do. If he blows up at her, then she can dust off and know that it’s his loss. She hasn’t *really* done everything in her power until she’s told him. (And I mean in her power to a reasonable level, not to the crazy-stalker “forcibly prevent them from having sex” kind of way)

      Besides, preventing drama isn’t the goal here. Protecting someone’s health is.

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      • Tracey

        Tracey October 20, 2011, 2:38 pm

        Not saying the overall goal is to prevent drama. The overall goal is to do all that one can reasonably do. And she’s done it, even if it isn’t the best possible outcome. This makes me think of the Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity
        to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” There’s not much more that can be done here. I mean, she can try and tell the guy, but she doesn’t know him, so she doesn’t have access to him, except through the girlfriend. Anything she could say or do will be filtered through his relationship with the girlfriend – the one he does know. Guess who he’s more likely to believe?

        Serenity now…she’s done all she reasonably can.

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      • Budj

        Budjer October 20, 2011, 2:42 pm

        I don’t think she has done all that she can. All that she can do is to tell this guy she has no relationship with outside of her “friend” that the girl he is seeing won’t tell him about her herpes. After that she has done all she can do…it’s up to him to believe her or not.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 3:01 pm

        Why stop there? I think she should put out a billboard with her friend’s full name and photograph that says “I HAVE GENITAL HERPES” so that no FUTURE guys could ever be exposed by her.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 3:04 pm

        So I should I assume you would be OK with someone knowingly exposing you to an STI?

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 3:09 pm

        Of course not. That’s why I get my partners tested, and if I don’t, I take every reasonable precaution and accept that I’ve put myself at risk. I believe it’s MY responsibility to protect MYSELF and I’m not going to put my health in someone else’s hands.

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        Britannia October 20, 2011, 3:15 pm

        You know that clean “bills of health” can be forged with relative ease, right? If someone was really set on having sex with you and had an infection, demanding that they get tested is not the end-all. You said above that you don’t think people should be responsible to alert their sex partners that they have an STD, so by logic you’re saying that it’s the clean sex partner’s job to force the truth out of them. Why not just be forthright with your health status? By taking responsibility off the infected person, you’re making it okay for them to say, “Oh, well, you didn’t ask me/administer that blood test yourself/make sure those health records weren’t forged, so haha! You now have herpes and totally deserve it for not taking every precaution!”

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 3:33 pm

        Whoa, whoa, whoa – I’m saying the infected person SHOULD tell. But am I going to rely on that? No way.

        Going to the clinic together and wanting to SEE the results is not forcing the truth out of them – if they don’t want to get tested, that’s their choice.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 3:18 pm

        So you would want to know if someone you were about to have sex with has herpes. The guy in question deserves the same.
        And my other point is you can do everything right and still get it, which is why if the other person knows he/she has it there is a moral obligation to tell their partner. And what I really don’t get is how people are so indifferent to this. No, it is not life-threatening, but it does have a lot of implications.

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      • avatar

        Flake October 20, 2011, 3:20 pm

        Also, having the “let’s go get tested for every possible STI before we have sex” conversation cannot be easier than simply telling a guy that you have one.

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      • Tracey

        Tracey October 20, 2011, 5:24 pm

        But how do we know he hasn’t had that conversation with her? We don’t. How do we know he even wants to have that conversation with her? We don’t. For all we know, he may be just as reckless as the girlfriend and not care. He may already have herpes. He may have something else. He may not even want to sleep with her and move on. We don’t know. LW doesn’t know. And the girlfriend, who does know, is angry with LW because of their previous conversations about her STD status. She can’t do any more than she already has – advise the girlfriend to tell him and protect herself without speculating, judging, or taking on more of this situation. It’s going to sound cold, but LW’s responsibility is only to the girlfriend because they are friends, they have the relationship, and they are in a position to talk openly to each other. She does not have this type of relationship with the guy. Again, it sounds cold, but unfortunately, he will have to initiate the “let’s get tested/what’s your status” conversation with the girlfriend on his own, not at the prompting of someone else.

        Besides, would you believe a total stranger if s/he came to you and said, “So and so has herpes…thought you should know….”?

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 8:05 pm

        The LW is not a stranger. She is a good friend of his GF.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 3:35 pm

        Yes I would want to know ahead of time. Am I going to just rely on someone to tell me? No. Because even though disclosure is the “right” thing to do, not everyone does it – for a number of reasons.

        The easiest and best thing is for her to tell him. No argument there.

        But he’s willingly having sex with her. Does NONE of the responsibility fall on him?

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 3:54 pm

        I realize that this is speculating, but for all we know he did ask her.

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        Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 4:04 pm

        Actually, Flake, I wouldn’t call that an unreasonable assumption given that LW’s friend has already stated that she’s not going to tell him no matter what. Thus, we can infer that if he has asked, she lied — about anything from being clean to having been tested recently.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 8:30 pm

        We can’t infer that she will outright lie to his face if she is directly asked, or that she will go to the trouble of making fake test results. She actually said she is going to tell him eventually. I don’t quite understand the logic behind that, but she does intend to tell him once they’re more serious (possibly when she knows she can trust him with delicate information) and in the meantime she BELIEVES that she is protecting him by using condoms and by not having sex during an outbreak.

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        Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 3:51 pm

        Again, “reasonable” is the operative and subjective word here.

        While I understand your reductio ad absurdum, the important factor I was focusing on was the idea that maybe he *has* inquired about her sexual health and she’s already lied to him. In that case, he’s done his due diligence and she purposely mislead him. A well-placed email would be a simple correction, while a billboard or STI registry would be as much overkill as hiring a private investigator to find out if he forged his clean bill of health.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 4:01 pm

        I don’t think merely asking is due diligence. If I asked my boyfriend if he was “clean” and he said yes, I wouldn’t be like, “OK! No condoms! Yay!”

        Even if I asked specifically do you have X (“No”) and Y (“No”) and Z (“No”), that’s not due diligence. He might not know. He might be lying. He might mistakenly believe that he is healthy (I hear people all the time tell me, “I went to the doctor and got tested for EVERYthing” or “I had my blood drawn so that means I had an HIV test right?”). Asking a partner or potential partner to get tested, or going to the clinic and getting tested together is not a big deal and should be way more routine for couples than it is. Sometimes even REALLY SMART and educated and responsible people can be dumb about STDs.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 4:09 pm

        “getting tested together is not a big deal and should be way more routine for couples” – exactly! But, apparently, according to the LW’s friend once they become a “couple”, it already will be too late. I completely agree with you that it is a person’s own responsibility to take care of their health, but in this society, where casual sex is accepted and normal, it may not be enough.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 4:43 pm

        Once they have sex, it will be too late. That’s why you get tested first.

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        Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 4:13 pm

        Again, though, we already know she’s willing to go to (what we consider) irrational lengths to deceive him. They could go to the clinic together and get tested, but hey — she might have paid off the doctor to produce a false negative!

        It also seems reasonable to ask someone to produce evidence that they’ve been tested recently (this would fall under inquiring about someone’s sexual health). Primarily because it seems silly to ask someone to pay for the tests twice in a short period; if they got tested when they were with their last partner, or after they broke up but before they got with you, or got tested by themselves last night, or whatever, would that be ok? But again, the same conditions for deception (forgery, etc.) still exist. Just how far are *you* willing to go to protect yourself? Is it still your own fault if you contract something when you are the victim of a grand deception?

        At some point, outside forces can trump personal diligence. LW is in a position to prevent that from happening, and by abandoning her friendship with herpes-friend she now has no reason not to act.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 4:49 pm

        She hasn’t gone through irrational lengths to deceive him. She’s choosing to lie by omission, which she (wrongly) believes is OK because she (wrongly) believes that if she uses a condom she is protecting him.

        FORGING MEDICAL RECORDS, on the other hand, IS going to irrational lengths to deceive someone. I would venture a guess that it is also illegal, whereas failing to disclose your herpes status is not, so in that case, yeah? I guess he could sue her or something?

        And no, even if you have recent negative tests on file, that’s not enough because different diseases/infections have different incubation/window periods.

        There is a LOT to take into consideration before having sex with a new partner.

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        Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 4:15 pm

        And when you donate blood, they really do test it for HIV and give you notice if it comes back positive. It’s not true of every single blood draw (like for the little vials), but every full-on donated pint through the Red Cross does get tested.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 5:01 pm

        OBVIOUSLY donated blood gets screened – every time. When someone tests positive, they send you a letter that says, “Go see your doctor.” IF that person follows through and goes to their doctor, often the doctor is in the dark about the results, so they have to retest them for the stuff that the blood bank might notify them about.

        At this point it becomes the health department’s duty to notify them of their results. However, many people who donate blood or plasma are doing it for compensation, and for plasma especially, a lot of times they are homeless or REALLY hard to locate, or they give inaccurate locating information. They can’t be notified if they can’t be located.

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      • Tracey

        Tracey October 20, 2011, 5:15 pm

        This whole thread gets back to the original point: The LW has done all she reasonably can. She doesn’t know the guy, has talked to the friend, and has tried to impart some logic into this situation – without knowing what else has happened. She really can’t do anymore without speculating, or causing more conflict because she doesn’t know what was said to the guy – about the girlfriend’s health status, about the status of his health, or about her and her relationship with the girlfriend. Because of this, she really can only talk on a reasonable level to the one she knows in this situation – the girlfriend. She’s done that, and the girlfriend blew her off. Now all she can do is walk away and hope for the best. Again, not the ideal option, but the best one available given the circumstances.

        It’s frustrating, but it’s all she’s got, especially since she does not know the guy – and he does not know her.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 8:07 pm

        No, she hasn’t. Not until she tells the guy. Then she will have done everything she could.

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    • Tracey

      Tracey October 20, 2011, 2:34 pm

      I just think that, while LW’s heart and concern is in the right place, there are too many possible roadblocks and too much of a chance for never ending drama from the girlfriend and/or the guy for her to get involved more than she already has. Remember, she’s not friends with the guy. He doesn’t know her except through the girlfriend, which increases the likelihood the girlfriend will brush off any warnings LW gives as sour grapes from a former friend, or that the guy will not take her seriously.

      It’s a horrible thought that he could end up contracting herpes from this very irresponsible woman, but there’s only so much LW can do in this case. And she’s done it. I hope he doesn’t contract anything. I hope he insists on testing before they have sex. I hope he’s diligent about condom usage. I hope the girlfriend changes her mind and tells him she has herpes. I also hope he’s not carrying anything and infects the girlfriend – after all, we don’t know the state of his health. This is a horrible situation, but LW’s done the best she can do considering the circumstances.

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      • avatar

        Fabelle October 21, 2011, 8:51 am

        I agree with Tracy, the LW has really done a lot in the interest of her friend’s guy. Telling him wouldn’t ensure anything– most people have some kind of “so…are you clean?” conversation prior to having sex, and if he’s reassured by a simple “yep, nooo STDs here!” then he’s being just as careless. And what happens if the LW DOES tell him? Maybe he would stop dating the friend, but contract herpes from the next girl he dates. Telling him might make the LW feel less guilty, but it’s not necessarily protecting the dude.

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  • avatar

    Paige October 20, 2011, 2:07 pm

    What’s the boyfriend’s name?? I’ll tell him! 🙂

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  • avatar

    Flake October 20, 2011, 2:09 pm

    “She also thinks that she doesn’t need to protect anyone else because no one protected her in the first place.”- I can’t tell how mad this statement makes me.This is the worst kind of attitude you can have. This alone is enough to dump her as a friend. That is BEYOND selfish. She IS risking the health of a lot of people.

    I have to say this again: please, please tell the BF!! I know that most people say that herpes is not life-threatening, that it is not a big deal (especially for a guy), that it is none of your business, etc… I also know that it can be EXTREMELY annoying. My friend was diagnosed with it, and every 3-4 months she literally can’t walk because of the outbreaks. Her doctor also told her that if she decides to have children, she will have to have a C/S in order to insure that her child doesn’t get. That is a big deal. You can’t, in good conscience, stand by and let this spread.

    Also, what if the guy was your friend, or your brother, or any other person you cared about??

    You have to, beyond any doubt, tell the guy. He does have a responsibility to protect himself, but condoms may not prevent herpes, because they do not cover the entire genital area, and it is contagious BEFORE it becomes obvious. He may also think that since they are exclusive, he doesn’t have to wear the condom all the time. If he gets it, he may infect others.

    Lastly, I could never be friends with someone who is so callous about the well-being of others, including you.

    Please tell the guy!

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    • courtney89

      Courtney October 20, 2011, 2:48 pm

      “Also, what if the guy was your friend, or your brother, or any other person you cared about??”

      So true. I’d want to kill any girl who knowingly gave a disease to my brother and I’m sure he’d want to kill any guy if the situation was reversed. NOT COOL. Tell him LW, tell him! Maybe not outright, but send him a message, and say “listen, so-and-so has a problem you need to be told about. Ask her about it.” or something.

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  • avatar

    Painted_lady October 20, 2011, 2:19 pm

    I just don’t understand the friend. She’s not a monster or anything, but it’s not like he’s never going to find out if they stay together. Chances are, she’s going to have an outbreak or he’s going to get it, and then he’s going to dump her, not for having herpes but for LYING. It looks like she’d rather endanger his health and “keep” him than tell the truth, which is so mind-numbingly selfish and short-sighted. It’s like when my brother used to lie on the phone to my mom that he’d done the dishes – it wasn’t like she was never going to come home and see the massive pile of dirty dishes in the sink – come on!

    While it’s no less wrong, I could see the draw of not telling, say, a one-night stand or something. It’s wrong, but if you’re pure id like this girl seems to be, hey, you’re never going to get caught, never have to see him again, you know, shitty, but I can see the self-centered logic of that. But a *boyfriend*?!?!?! And on top of that, I can’t imagine for a second why he wouldn’t feel entitled – when he finds out, not if – to tell anyone who will listen about his ex who gave him an STD. If we’re avoiding shame as the utmost motivator here, that in and of itself would have me blabbing to him ASAP.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 2:50 pm

    SHOULD the LW’s friend tell the potential-boyfriend? Yes.

    But where is HIS responsibility in all this? If he’s so concerned about his personal health and safety, then shouldn’t HE be the one to initiate the STD conversation before sex? And I don’t just mean, “Are you clean?” or “You don’t have anything, do you?”

    I mean, he should say “Let’s get tested TOGETHER before we have sex, even if we are going to use a condom – and yes, we WILL be using a condom.” They can go to the clinic together, he can make sure a herpes test is included (remember – it is NOT part of a normal exam unless symptoms are present) – and then they can show each other their results. ON PAPER.

    I know that this doesn’t happen very often in the real world.

    If I don’t get my partner tested before I have sex with him, then I take all precautions available to me (condoms/other barriers/birth control) and ACCEPT that if I get something anyway, it was MY decision to have sex, and it is ALWAYS a risk.

    And if it’s not a risk you are willing to take, then either don’t have sex, or don’t have sex with someone whose status you do not KNOW.

    I will never depend on anyone to disclose their STD status to me because (a) MANY (if not most) people with STDs are asymptomatic and therefore don’t know that they have something and (b) some people are just dicks and they lie, especially when they’re about to get laid.

    Given the negativity in the comments here, I would want as FEW people to know as possible if I did have something. Telling her potential boyfriend that she’s infected with herpes not only poses the risk that he’ll dump her, but also that he’ll go out and tell a bunch of people her business. Which is EXACTLY what her friend is thinking about doing! LW – it is not your place to tell the dude. I think the way you approached it was absolutely the best thing you could have done, and you made your best effort, but now it’s out of your hands.

    I’m also wondering how many readers/commenters have had a BLOOD TEST for herpes? Because something like 70% of people who are infected with HSV2 show no signs of the infection.

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    • avatar

      Flake October 20, 2011, 2:57 pm

      I know a few people that have herpes or HPV. There’s no negativity when an adult acts responsibly and honestly. I don’t know how old the LW and her friend are, but in an adult relationships honesty and responsibility are appreciated.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 3:44 pm

        Well, I work in the field and I see the ignorance, the shaming, the stigma, and the negativity day after day after day after day. I see people who would rather play the blame game than take care of themselves or their partners. I see people who don’t tell their partners because they don’t want to get caught cheating. I get phone calls every day where someone says, “Hey I know that so&so has such&such and they’re still having sex PLEASE DO SOMETHING”. I see people subjected to violence when their partner finds out (even though the douchey partner was probably the one that brought the infection into the relationship). I see people spread rumors about others, sometimes true sometimes not. It’s a harsh world out there. And while there ARE tons of responsible and mature people out there, there are MORE who aren’t.

        So my advice to everyone is – It is your responsibility to protect yourself.

        Is that ideal? No. But you can’t control anyone’s behavior except your own.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 3:56 pm

        Well, what can I say. People are prejudiced about a lot of things. Just because I am afraid of how someone might react, does not mean I shouldn’t do the right thing.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 4:12 pm

        Again, I’m not saying that she “shouldn’t” tell him. Lying straight to his face (if he asks) and lying by omission both are wrong.

        But every time you have sex with someone, unless you know their status for sure, whether or not a condom is used, you ARE putting yourself at risk.

        So if you are UNWILLING to take that risk, you can either NOT have sex (I mean ANY type of sexual conduct), or have monogamous sex with ONE partner who is not infected. You will know if they are infected when you get them tested, see their results, and take incubation periods into account.

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      • Tracey

        Tracey October 20, 2011, 5:26 pm

        “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” It’s all anyone can do….

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      amber October 20, 2011, 2:57 pm

      i agree with your statement about getting tested and it being your decision to take the risk. if you’re mature enough to have sex you are mature enough to have a conversation about STDs and have a test. and like you said make sure you get tested for herpes, don’t assume the clinic will do that automatically. it’s so easy to have sex but so hard for many people to have a grown up conversation about it beforehand.

      also, i think that the negative attitudes on here are at the idea of someone knowingly exposing someone to the disease and being so indifferent about it. i have a few friends with stds and they have always told and neither of them have ever received negative feedback from this. i realize that this won’t always happen and people do run the risk of dating/telling a person who will react negatively. but, does that justify knowingly exposing someone?

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 3:37 pm

        I’m 100% in agreement that the LW’s friend SHOULD tell the guy. Let me reiterate.

        But if the friend takes it into her own hands and tells the guy, that is 100% NOT her place.

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        Shadowflash1522 October 20, 2011, 4:00 pm

        What if the guy *has* done his due diligence, and she still went to great lengths to deceive him? LW can perform a simple task — a quick email is all it takes — and then wash her hands of the entire matter. It’s still his responsibility to look into it if he so chooses.

        At this point I look at it as revealing an important, health-related deception which to me is not a matter of ‘place’. No different from letting someone know that the drug company lied to them about their medication’s side effects.

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      • Budj

        Budj October 20, 2011, 4:05 pm

        I absolutely think it immoral to ruin this guys penis for the rest of his life because “it isn’t the LW’s place to tell him”….not to mention this relationship would be over due to deceit. So this guy would then have no relationship with the LW’s friend and an be left with a “present” he (AND HIS FUTURE PARTNERS) have to deal with for the rest of his life. How is it fair to his future partners to let this slide? How is it fair to spread it to one more person? How is that stopping the spread of the disease? Inaction is action.

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      • avatar

        MJ October 20, 2011, 4:25 pm

        “Ruin his penis”??? Seriously?

        Herpes is, for most people, an occasional outbreak of something similar to cold sores. Nothing is ruined. This kind of hysteria just feeds the problem.

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      • Budj

        Budj October 20, 2011, 4:40 pm

        That was a joke…and I for one don’t EVER want herpes…so please don’t tell me it isn’t a big deal.

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      • avatar

        MJ October 20, 2011, 4:46 pm

        I don’t think anyone wants herpes. God forbid. I just think people’s reactions to it verge on hysteria. That’s why I couldn’t tell that you were joking.

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      • Budj

        Budj October 20, 2011, 4:51 pm

        Yea – I try to be colorful…sometimes…no biggie…

        I just think in this specific situation I would tell…because I would feel obligated…I mean (now this is a drastic comparison)…that’s like someone dropping a note on my lap that there is a bomb somewhere and I have an hour to tell someone to stop it and I just toss it in the trash…

        obviously she can’t follow this woman around forever, but in this specific instance she knows about it…

        who knows…this guy could just use the information to talk to his “almost-gf” about it and they could live a long happy life together with mutual skin irritated bliss.

        I know several instances where people have made it through these hurdles…I also know of several instances where someone GOT herpes from their partner and decided…”well we might as well make it official” so it doesn’t have to be an end all.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 4:42 pm

        I wish someone with herpes would say how an outbreak really feels… My friend says it feels as if someone used a cheese grater on her lady parts.

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      • Budj

        Budj October 20, 2011, 4:44 pm

        This. I’ve heard the same.

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        MJ October 20, 2011, 4:44 pm

        I think it depends on how it affects you. It can suck, but it can also be completely asymptomatic. That’s why so many people pass it on without knowing it. Every experience is different.

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      • avatar

        Flake October 20, 2011, 4:52 pm

        I sure as hell wouldn’t want to find out how it would affect me… She takes days off work (it doesn’t help that she’s on her feet all the time) and sits on an ice pack.

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      • avatar

        MJ October 20, 2011, 5:28 pm

        Ugh, that sucks for her. I hope she’s able to get good treatment and her body is able to fight the outbreaks off after awhile so they don’t occur.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 4:26 pm

        So is it the LW’s duty now to follow the friend around forever and warn every potential sex partner that they might be exposing themselves to herpes? Is that her responsibility now?

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      • Budj

        Budj October 20, 2011, 4:41 pm

        No – because that friendship is over. But she sure as hell is privvy to this situation.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 4:19 pm

        OK, if someone goes to great lengths to forge medical records and drag out a lie to THAT extent, then they have issues that go so far beyond having an STD and I would hope that some other red flags would present themselves before the sex happens.

        If he got her tested and she forged results, and he got herpes from her, and he could prove that he got it from her, and could prove that she KNEW she had it and went to great lengths to hide it from him, then yeah. I guess he could sue?

        I don’t know why my comments that he needs to take personal responsibility for himself are so controversial, especially given the fact that I agree that she SHOULD disclose.

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        Flake October 20, 2011, 4:30 pm

        Nobody is denying the personal responsibility part. But no matter how responsible a person is, sometimes he still gets screwed. I will the drunk-driving again. Someone gets run over by the drunk driver. He can sew, but how does that really help the fact that the person is already hurt and suffering the consequences of someone else’s stupid decision?
        There is personal responsibility, but there’s also responsibility to others in the society.

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      • avatar

        Flake October 20, 2011, 4:35 pm

        *sue.. damn spellchecker..

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      • avatar

        amber October 20, 2011, 4:27 pm

        i get that i’m just saying that the risk of a negative reaction does not negate the fact that she needs to tell him. i wouldn’t blame him for dumping her after she told him because it’s not about the fact that she had an STD but the fact that she lied about it. i realize he’s taking a risk by having sex but she’s taking a risk of him doing just what you said getting pissed, dumping her and telling his buddies by lying to him and having him find out another way. and i’m not saying i think it’s the friend’s place to tell either. but, i would be uncomfortable hanging out with the two of them in the future watching them get closer knowing the entire time she was lying about this. i would have to end the friendship because i couldn’t watch that and not say something. i guess in the end my point is you can’t not tell the truth because you’re scared of the consequences, because often the consequences of lying are far worse. and eventually the LW’s friend is going to find this out the hard way. and more than likely it will make her even less likely to share in the future because she’ll think that’s how everyone is going to react when if she could just grow up and learn to tell the truth, people would probably react much differently.

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    • JK

      JK October 20, 2011, 3:01 pm

      My OB/GYN sent me before both of my pregnancies to get complete bloodwork done, including HIV, syphilis, herpes, etc. I don´t live in the US though.

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      • avatar

        Flake October 20, 2011, 3:09 pm

        Me to. He also recommended for my husband to get tested and he did.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow October 20, 2011, 3:36 pm

        Yeah, most of it is required during pregnancy (although it varies from state to state). That’s also assuming someone is getting prenatal care.

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    • avatar

      Flake October 20, 2011, 3:09 pm

      I actually did, right after I found out that one of my best friends has it.

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  • avatar

    TheOtherMe October 20, 2011, 3:06 pm

    Show him this link, and the link from original letter & tell him his girlfriend was the “friend” in question.

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  • avatar

    Jordana October 20, 2011, 4:37 pm

    LW-Someone mentioned that you use an ultimatum to give your friend one more chance to tell him. I honestly believe that an ultimatum will not be successful at all. She already made her choice not to tell him. You should tell the boyfriend about the STD because he deserves to know and because it’s the right thing to do. I would be super pissed if a friend of knew of mine kept something from me that could have a negative effect on me, especially my health. At this point, the friendship is over. No matter what you do or say, this girl needs to grow the hell up and very soon. She will of course be pissed if you decide to tell the boyfriend but she is not deserving of your friendship. The sooner you tell him, the better. Good luck

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    • avatar

      iseeshiny October 20, 2011, 11:04 pm

      On ultimatums: you’re right, they are a terrible way to try to force someone into doing what you want. Ie, we get engaged or we break up. It only works if a, the person being… ultimated (yeah. Just made that up) reeeeeallly doesn’t want to break up and b, you are actually willing to break up. And then you have great big problems down the line, such as a, divorce bc the ultimated didn’t want to get married in the first place, or b, you’re miserable because you would rather not have broken up and in retrospect should have kept your trap shut. My point is, ultimatums only work if you are actually prepared to accept the consequences whichever way the ultimatee chooses.

      I think an ultimatum would actually be a good thing in this case if, and only if two conditions are met: one, the lw is really done with the friendship, and two, she decides the unlucky guy needs to know above all else. In fact, it would be a kindness to the friend. If the lw goes ahead and tells the bf, chances are he will dump the friend (or not, depending how hard up he is for action, whether or not he still thinks he is invincible, and how much he likes the girl). By letting the friend know that the lw will see the bf informed regardless of the friend’s wishes, the lw gives the friend a chance to salvage the relationship with the bf by coming clean before he hears it from a relative stranger. The friend already made the choice not to tell the bf because she thinks he will hear it from her or not at all.

      And this may all be moot anyway, since the lw says she doesn’t think it’s her “place.” Which, hell, it may not be. But I’d rather know than not if I were him.

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  • avatar

    6napkinburger October 20, 2011, 5:00 pm

    I think the debate above is really about “duty”/”responsibility.” The goal is for the BF to obtain knowledge of LW’s friend’s STD status. In this debate, there are 3 possible duties.

    Duty #1: LW’s Friend’s Duty to tell BF.
    This duty is non-negotiable. LW’s Friend has a duty to tell her sexual partners about her STD status.

    Duty #2: LW’s Duty to tell BF.
    Many people seem to think that as a person who knows him and knows LW’s friend’s status, LW has a duty to tell the BF.

    Duty #3: BF’s Duty to find out from LW’s Friend.
    Catsmeow in particular has been the most vocal about this duty. The BF has a duty to protect himself, by getting tested, asking uncomfortavle questions and insisting on proof.

    The truth is that if any one of these “duties” is fulfilled, there is no more problem (with the exception of paying off doctor’s at the clinic? which I think was veering into the realm of so improbable as to be discountable). He will know.

    Catsmeow believes that, if duty #1 fails, Duty #3 should be the one which prevents him from getting sick, and that LW should not feel guilty about relying on it. The other people believe the only way she can adequately assuage her guilt is to assume #3 will go the same way as #1, and fulfill the job herself.

    No one is arguing that duties #1 and #3 don’t exist. The only one that is being argued is whether #2 exists. Which is fairly debatable. You guys are mostly agreeing. Loudly.

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  • avatar

    abcdefrannie October 20, 2011, 5:26 pm

    The BF should be told.

    Just to add to this discussion… I’ve slept with three people. Along the way, one of them gave me herpes. I had been dating my current boy for a year when I had the first outbreak. No, he did not cheat on me and I did not cheat on him. The outbreak was painful. It hurt to pee, it hurt to poo. I initially went to the doctor because I thought I had hemorrhoids. I had one sore. I’d always been careful, always got tested (though the doc didn’t test for herpes, even though blood was drawn for HIV testing, and I didn’t know to ask), always used protection… except during oral. I hope those of you being judgey about Meredith’s comments or the LW’s friend never have to deal with it. Although the virus is sneaky, you might have it now and not have symptoms, like I did.

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  • avatar

    Flake October 20, 2011, 8:12 pm

    One last note on the personal responsibility: You can be the most responsible and diligent person in the world, but if other people continuously and knowingly put you at risk, all that diligence is not going to mean much and sooner or later you will get screwed.

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  • katie

    katie October 20, 2011, 8:51 pm

    LW, i would just like to say that I agree with you about seeing honesty as something that is very important. I wouldnt be able to be friends with someone who was doing this either. like, most people wouldnt be able to be friends with someone who was a thief or murderer or whatever…. well, dishonesty is on my list as well. so i dont fault you at all for wanting to end your friendship, and i hope that you tell her exactly why your doing it.

    oh, and i do hope you tell the boyfriend. it doesnt matter if he believes you or not, atleast you tried and did the right thing. again, honesty is important. in my book, not telling him would be a lie of omission… i wouldnt be able to not tell him. i hope you do!

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    convexed October 20, 2011, 9:22 pm

    I think the lw should tell the bf. Sure, she can’t predict every possible social consequence, and sure, hypothetically she shouldn’t have to. But this isn’t hypothetical, it is specific and is what it is. All you can do is test the rightness and applicability of yr values against all the information and opposing viewpoints you have available to you, and act, sometimes with a lot to lose. No, not everyone categorically should disclose other ppls sexual liabilities for them, but this isn’t precedent setting; its one, particular situation, in real life, not an ethics or policy lab.
    I agree that shame and fear never justify harming others, even just potentially, but Meredith raises an excellent point. Not about actions–meredith and everyone else agree the friend is way out of line–

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  • avatar

    convexed October 20, 2011, 9:29 pm

    (Sorry, submitted too soon)–but about understanding how shame affects motivation, which is good to be thoughtful about because its a lot easier to effectively confront people when you can show you see their point of view. They are much more receptive to hearing you when they feel you ‘hear’ them, and therefore more likely to do what’s right, instead of just getting defensive and taking a ‘fuck the world, I don’t care’ stance, as the friend has done. Meredith never said it was an excuse, and feeling some understanding isn’t mutually exclusive to taking a hard line on what has to be done, since necessary, reasonable actions don’t always align with feelings anyway. It doesn’t weaken anyones argument to acknowledge the difficulty of telling what the friend needs to tell, and be intensely grateful if your integrity has yet to be tested in that way.

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