Walker, I am 63 and about to be single again. I have had herpes since I was 25 and always told my partners. I am terrified that no one will want to be with me. Do you know the attitudes of seniors towards herpes. I haven’t had symptoms since I had the shingles vaccine, an ironic coincidence.
This is an great question, particularly as I’ve just starting writing for My LabBOX, an at-home testing kit business and the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA). Both of these groups are working to inform men and women about sexually transmitted diseases, safety and sexual health. During Sexual Health Awareness Month the ASHA talked about various initiatives, one of which is Boomer Sexual Health. Annis’s (not her real name) question involves STDs among boomers and reflects the normal trepidation most single people feel upon reentering the dating game.
Annis has always taken a proactive approach to her STD by informing potential partners–and has found partners who understood how to manage the risks, as a couple, in order to have a safe, sexy relationship. As she approaches being single and dating again she has concerns about how an older individual might feel about herpes.
I love what the ASHA says about this:
In the grand scheme of things, genital herpes is an inconvenience for most couples—nothing more than that. Keep this fact in mind and keep your language positive. Your attitude will also have a lot of influence on how the news is received. If you are positive and upbeat, it’s more likely your partner will adopt the same attitude. Try not to let the anticipation of a possible negative reaction affect the delivery of your message.
Annis, I would like to think that many older adults are having open conversations about STI/STDs and taking the necessary steps to protect each other. Awareness and the right mix of caution and precautions (condoms, medications, abstaining during flair ups) can create safer conditions for having sex. The new partner who automatically dismisses you due to the herpes isn’t the right person for you. He or she would be making a decision based on fear and prejudice rather than working to build trust and intimacy.
- It is estimated that as many as one in five Americans have genital herpes, a lifelong (but manageable) infection, yet up to 90 percent of those with herpes are unaware they have it.
- With more than 50 million adults in the US with genital herpes and up to 776,000 new infections each year, some estimates suggest that by 2025 up to 40% of all men and half of all women could be infected. (ASHA)
The dating game isn’t easy at any stage and sharing your herpes status might make things tough. I’m not sure that singles in their 60s are any less knowledgeable or tolerant of STDs than younger individuals. There is a strong likelihood that some of the single people you will meet also have a sexually transmitted infection.
I recommend that you wait to disclose your personal information until the first date, or maybe the second. Give yourself enough time to see if you want to go farther with this person and then have the conversation. As you have probably done in the past, be prepared with resources for partners and a willingness to answer questions. There’s no point in telling him/her before you know if you want to continue dating this person—but don’t wait so long that it looks like you were hiding something.
Timing can be a touchy situation—you might want to talk about STDs as part of the larger conversation about sex. Will you both get tested? How long to wait before having sex? You will want to talk about your wants and needs and other aspects of a sexual relationship that are important to you. Take time to listen to the other person’s concerns as well. If the reaction is negative, you can walk away knowing that you did the right thing, acting with honesty and integrity.
Best to you as you navigate the dating world again.
Additional Articles and Resources:
- CDC Fact Sheet on STD/STI
- STD Awareness Month
- The Conversation to Have Before You Get into Bed
- If I Have Herpes, How Can I Tell the New Guy I’m Dating?
image: Hotblack at Morguefiles