Q&A: Single with a STD

Q&A: Single with a STD


sexuality, STD, STI, herpes,Dating with Herpes

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.

Some statistics:

  • 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:

image: Hotblack at Morguefiles

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  • Carol Cassara (@ccassara)
    Posted at 08:22h, 17 November Reply

    Good advice…I do think the first date is too soon…the second at the earliest makes more sense to me… the other thing is that some older adults really are less inclined toward sexual intercourse and more inclined toward other forms of stimulation or even just cuddling and affection This isn’t always the case or even mostly the case, but in our older years we have more perspective on sex and she may find responses that surprise her in a good way more than she did in her youth.

    • Walker
      Posted at 08:40h, 17 November Reply

      Carol, I think she’ll find that many older adults are open to having the conversation and will be receptive.
      I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss active sex and intercourse as something most older adults give up. I know plenty of couples in their late 60s who regularly engage in a wide range of sexual activities that include oral, penetration and even kink. But, as you note, there is a range.

  • carla
    Posted at 08:29h, 17 November Reply

    one in five makes it so so so normalizing.
    be open.
    all will be ok.

    • Walker
      Posted at 08:42h, 17 November Reply

      I was surprised at those statistics–but it does bode well for Annis. And, it’s a cautionary note for all of us to continue with testing for STD/STIs at the beginning of every new relationship. Thanks for your positive words.

  • Sandy Weiner
    Posted at 10:28h, 17 November Reply

    Walker, I agree we need to get comfortable with awkward conversations – about STDs or anything else. One of the advantages to dating at this age is that if we’ve done the inner work, we know ourselves better. No more mind reading. We are better at communicating our needs and walking away from the wrong people. My standard is that I don’t have sex with anyone I’m not exclusive with and we need to exchange current STD test results before hopping between the sheets.

    Thanks for bringing up this important topic and normalizing it!

    • Walker
      Posted at 15:27h, 17 November Reply

      Thank you Sandy. Love all you had to say here and I agree with your assessment of older adults and dating.

  • Laura
    Posted at 10:46h, 17 November Reply

    People can be complete trolls about HSV-2, referring to carriers as “dirty” and “diseased” when they may be carrying the virus and just not know it. My friends in the lifestyle community (aka “swingers”) list themselves as HSV positive on their dating profiles but because they know their statuses, take precautions and a daily suppressive, I think sex with them is safer than with most.

    As far as discussing STD status: if it feels awkward discussing test results with a potential partner, I probably shouldn’t have sex with them.

    • Walker
      Posted at 15:33h, 17 November Reply

      Yep, if we can’t talk about sex then the comfort level necessary to have good sex isn’t there. You’re absolutely right about that. As for dating someone who has a STD/STI if everyone is informed and taking precautions then, like you said, it can be very safe. It’s the ones who refuse to be tested and refuse to use condoms/protection that we should be worried about!

  • Shannon Bradley-Colleary
    Posted at 16:25h, 17 November Reply

    Walker you had me at the headline. I love that you’re willing to blog about the things most people want to ignore. You’re providing valuable, non-judgmental support. Keep it up!

    • Walker
      Posted at 16:33h, 17 November Reply

      Shannon, thanks. I try to walk that fine line between sharing information and offering ‘advice’… it’s not my place to judge, though at times it’s tempting! Thanks for your continued support!

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