Q. I desperately need your help. I was diagnosed with genital herpes three years ago, and this diagnosis has left me full of emotions. I am crying as I write this letter.

For fear of scorn and rejection, I cannot disclose this to anyone. I won’t ask for a prescription because if I got it filled, anyone who works in the store would know, even the kids they hire after school.

Are there any over-the-counter vitamins I can take to help with the discomfort and pain? I feel tremendous pressure to maintain this secret. The only reason I haven’t killed myself is because I have kids. I am afraid I could pass this on to them, so I constantly wash my hands and disinfect the house and car.

A. You are not alone. It is estimated that one in five Americans (45 million) is infected with genital herpes. Counseling can sometimes help overcome the emotional strain of this infection.

There are effective antiviral medications to prevent outbreaks or shorten the duration of an attack (Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases, Feb. 2008). Your doctor could prescribe acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) or valacyclovir (Valtrex).

You should not worry about the pharmacy where you purchase the medication. Your privacy is protected. If you prefer, though, you could use an online or mail order pharmacy service. That way you wouldn’t even have to go to a pharmacy.

The virus that causes genital herpes is spread primarily by sexual contact, so you won’t infect your children. Of course, during an outbreak, frequent hand washing is advisable.

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  1. andi
    wichita, ks

    I was diagnosed five years ago (when I was 19), and at the time was anorexic and very depressed from a love who had left me, and living in a new city, Los Angeles. I refused to believe I would ever find love again, and that the person who had left (he lived in a different city) would never see me the same way again. The first time I told someone was about 6 months after I was diagnosed, and he had the best response “We’ll figure it out.”

    There were a lot of guys I didn’t tell – and I still feel guilty about all of them. I chose to start telling everyone (even the ones I wasn’t serious about) only about a year ago. And my life has been so much better.

    The first few times I told partners they were all supportive – two actually had STDs, one herpes, another one with warts – and I it was sooooo relieving being able to talk about it with someone who went through the same thing. Out of the people I’ve told (probably 20), I’ve had FOUR “bad” responses – where they were all really nice about it but just didn’t want to continue seeing each other or sleep together. The first three times were insanely painful – rejection is rejection.

    But the amount of kudos I have received for being honest has been amazing. I’ve talked to others who have it (it’s naturally, don’t ask me how, come out in conversation) and one girl had never told anyone. Can you imagine the relief? I would have felt amazing if I had someone to talk about it with who had gone through the same thing at that first time.

    Seriously, 1 in 4 people have it. It’s a burden telling someone and one of THE WORST feelings I have ever had.. waaaaaaaaaay worse than breaking my arm. But it has been an amazing experience, and honestly – I’m glad I got it. It took five years – but I know I’m so much stronger – it’s brought strength that I didn’t know I had, and don’t know how I would have received otherwise.

    The best way to cope is to talk about it. With whoever you can. My mom and friends were extremely supportive and helped hold me up every time I have fallen down which, trust me, has been a whole lot in the last five years.

    Also – have you seen the times article that they’re using herpes to cure cancer?!


    Seriously.. they’re going to come out with a cure for herpes in the next ten years, and then it’s going to have been the cool thing to have gone through the shit we’ve gone through. Trust me, the herpes jokes in a group of people are the worst. The awkward laugh.. especially when someone in the group knows. The asking if you have an STD when you’re about to hook up.. and looking into a person’s eyes and lying about it. It’s not worth it. I’m sure many of you will experience it – but you don’t have to. And you shouldn’t have to feel how it feels to lie to someone. People want honesty. And trust me – you WILL become a better person because of it. I know because.. I’ve been there. And sometimes I still get upset about it. But every person I tell (whether they’re a friend, a partner, or even a family member) is impressed that I am OK enough to talk about it. And I respect myself more because of it.

    Also – I will always remember the people who have not been OK with it, who’ve not been supportive (and I love everyone, so this is a hard concept), or who look down on someone with something they didn’t ask for. Because it takes a strong person to be honest, and it takes an even stronger person to care enough for someone to be at risk for them. Those are how you know you’ve found the winners.

  2. stan
    United States

    Stay strong for the people who care about you. I contemplate suicide everyday, but I just think about my family. I will probably die with my secret, but I don’t think that’s best. Just remember no matter how alone and hopeless you feel you’re not alone! Love yourself no matter what. I know how you feel and it’s gonna be ok I promise. Just keep hope, well kill this eventually

  3. Colleen

    This virus is really taking a toll on me mentally and physically. I love my boyfriend more than he loves himself. I’m afraid he will leave me or at least cheat he thinks I cheated and gave him this smh I know he’s upset and the suspense of not knowing is driving him crazy but he makes me feel no bigger than a penny and no better than a stray dog is this love do I deserve to be capped on?

  4. Carmen


    My name is Carmen. I have a minor blister in my vaginal area and it makes it uncomfortable to wipe myself after I use the washroom, although I have searched images of herpes my situation does not look that severe and I can still go about my daily life as it is just a small irritation. Even though it is minor I still went to the Doctors yesterday and they tested me for herpes. The Doctor said it looked suspicious and that after the results arrive, I should come in for a follow up. All though this is subtle and am still waiting for the results I am utterly and completely freaking out! I take pride in my appearance and finding out I may have herpes scares me to death. A guy I am dating kept asking me what I was thinking about all day yesterday, it was as though he knew something was on my mind and I didn’t have the courage to tell him what I was going through/feeling at that moment. I feel as though I will never be able to tell anyone. Can I keep it to myself forever?

    It’s only been a couple days that I have been having discomfort down there and I’m hoping it will just go away but in my heart I feel that it may be what I hope it isn’t. I have the prescription for Valtrex but haven’t gone to the pharmacy to get it. I think once I part take in the medication the disease will come to life and I will be accepting that I have herpes.

  5. Anon

    I was diagnosed yesterday but not had the results to confirm yet. Caught from new boyfriend with no symptoms who gets cold sores. Feel very low and weepy. Hoping it won’t be a big problem and ordered l lysium and apple cider vinegar and going on an alkaline diet now – will try and tackle that way but if I get ill I will take the antivirals. I think the stigma is the biggest thing to deal with – I need to rise above it and not let it beat me down – good luck everyone xxx

  6. Ayona

    I caught h from a past dishonest Partner, we are no longer together anymore. I then found someone new! At the time when we were taking I was negative for h but then I got tested again and I was positive! Around the time I was getting serious with this new person, the new person was scared but very accepting of this and we have had a healthy safe relationship for about 3 years now! We moved in together and then they decided that they no longer wanted to have Sex at all! Which is hard for me after a 3 year relationship and then dropped the bomb on me and said they wanted to have an open relationship cause they want sex! How am I suppose to feel about that?

    • Ayona

      Oh and I have had no symptoms or signs that I have it ! The doctor didn’t even tell me what type nor can they because of my rare case ! It’s just in my blood !

  7. Savethenextone

    I’m 17 was raped and diagnosed with genital herpes. I know the emotional pain, I’ve recently started to drink because it kills the pain. It’s not easy to have this disease especially being so young. I have my whole life ahead of me, now being that I have this I suffer pain, this hurts so bad. And emotionally? I’m a wreck. But I am trying to pick myself back up and remember this was stolen from me, and just because I have this? Yeah I mean it hurts to be turned down by somebody but remember they’re turning the herpes down not you, and you need to remember your worth. I have a boyfriend now who knows my condition and he is so supportive this isn’t how I thought life with an STD would go and it’s not easy, not at all but if you give up its going to end all chances for this to get better. Just give what your doing your all, it will all work out in the end. This is for all of you suffering even on your worse days. Remember somebody cares and will ALWYAS be here to talk to you. Stay strong

  8. R

    25yo Male — I was diagnosed with HSV-2 about nine months ago. It appeared when I was extremely ill, perhaps from the herpes, or perhaps the herpes presented itself as a result of my illness.
    Either way — I had just started dating my girlfriend about a week before the bumps appeared. Luckily we had not had sex because I was too sick to do so. I got tested and it came back positive. I was extremely depressed for a few days. Every person I saw the though crossed my mind ‘Do they have hepres’. I dreamed about herpes and it ruining my life. My girlfriend was so understanding and her first response was: You can take medicine for that right?
    I was put on Valtrex 500mg and had two outbreaks after that, each coming after getting badly sunburned (which can be a trigger). My doctor upped my dosage to 1000mg a day and I haven’t had any sort of outbreak in six months or so.
    I actually almost completely forget that I have it, it is such a non issue. My sex life with my girlfriend is fantastic. She hasn’t contracted it, and odd are she won’t as long as I continue to take Valtrex. I’m just soooo grateful I don’t have a fatal disease. When you stop to think about it, it’s really just an annoyance of getting cold sores around your genitals a few times a year, or perhaps only one or two times a in your life (if you take your meds).
    I’d also like to say to all the young women who have posted on this thread — I total understand how you feel! But, the good news is that there are tons of great guys out there who will release HPV is a skin condition like eczema or a regular cold sore. And there are also some really fantastic guys who probably also have the virus! I wouldn’t be shocked if about half of my friends have it, lol.
    Life is beautiful if you don’t let the bad stuff block your view!

  9. Dee

    I just found out I am infected with HSV2 and not taking it very well. I did notice some rash before but thought it wasn’t serious till I decided to get it looked at. It went away and I didn’t give it much thought. I hope I didn’t infect my girlfriend or think I have been fooling around. I did tell her that the doctor thinks it is genital herpes and now I hope she isn’t infected as we have been trying to plan to have children. She was understanding and it was more important to stay in love. She is so amazing but I am concerned for her and our unborn child and the approach to take.

  10. JJC

    Dear fellow sufferers!
    Many thanks to all of you for your comforting comments. I have been on a hell of an emotional rollercoaster over the last 20 years of having this disease–feeling like damaged goods, etc., etc. I have been taking meds, natural remedies, etc., etc. My main question remains unanswered: while there is NO outbreak and while not on medication, can genital HSV still be transmitted to a healthy partner? I am planning to get pregnant and will be coming off acyclovir, so I am very worried about my partner contracting it. Being on acyclovir is obviously protecting him, but how likely is is that a person could contract it without an outbreak?
    Is it the same as with people with oral herpes–i.e., it seems only to be transmitted during an outbreak and safe when there is no outbreak?
    I try to tell to myself that if herpes was transmitted even without the outbreak, then everyone would have herpes, not just 1 in 5 people. By the way, does anyone know the statistics in Europe? 1 in 5 I believe is in the USA.
    I thank you all for your time reading my post and for replying to it.

  11. Young One

    I know how you feel, my doctor told me I had genital herpes a year ago, I was almost 19. I thought of suicide, the pills, everything basically. I was still in shock, and sometimes the emotional stage comes and goes because its still fresh in my mind. But then I realized that you know no one is perfect, and at least its not fatal, at least I can live, I can dance, sing, move, walk! It’s not the end of the world and I see that. Its actually not even that bad, I barely know I have it sometimes I even forget. And the pills do work, and if the guy/girl loves you they won’t care because herpes isn’t you, it’s just something you have. It’s your past that makes you who you are.
    And who are you? Well your the incredible human being you were before herpes and you are still the incredible human being afterwards. Herpes doesn’t make who you are, it makes you wiser, and smarter, and accept things better. It’s not cancer or death. Its a tiny disease that almost half of this planet has and you are never alone no matter what. It’s the past and sometimes, yeah, you get sad, but don’t let it control your life, just because you decided to have sex with someone. And never regret anything because it makes you everything you are today. And the fact that you have kids, makes you even stronger, that you look at them and see the joy in life and the beauty in love.

  12. JT

    I was a 19 year old lad who just started university. I was a virgin at the time and typical thought I found the love of my life. I slept with her and a few weeks down the line I began to get really painful sores. I feel stupid for falling into this trap. The funny thing is I still stayed with her for over two years, I guess I was scared that I would not be able to be in another relationship. in the end we broke because of her constant cheating, lord only knows how many other guys she infected. I found out recently she is now married and due to have her first child. I’m upset as I still cannot get over what she has done to me. I cannot believe people can be so selfish and inconsiderate.

  13. E

    Diagnosed a month ago. Like a previous poster, I waited until I was 24 to lose my virginity & got herpes from him. I suspected he was fooling around but was waiting for more concrete evidence to say something about it. It feels like a punishment for having sex at all (was raised religiously), and I was SO cautious. I waited 6 months before having sex with him, and this is what I get for it. I’m scared no one will ever love me, especially because I was never great at getting guys to be attracted to me in the first place.
    I’m in therapy now, and I don’t know that it’s helping. I can’t tell several of my friends as I’m afraid they’ll look at me cast me as a leper, so they have no idea what I’m dealing with. All your stories really help, and now I know I will ensure future guys to get tested; maybe this experience will save me from HIV someday.
    Thank you to those of you who’ve dealt with it for a while. My doctor told me it’s nothing more than a nuisance, and I want so badly for other people to see it that way too. It was tough trying to be loved before and this definitely makes it that much harder.
    Again, thank you so much for your stories and support. I needed this.

  14. CJ

    I have had this for 20 years myself and I concur with most of the statements on this post but one thing everyone should remember. We tend to heavily blame the people who gave this to us but please remember someone gave it to them. At some point they to woke one day to find a disturbance down there. They are not evil or bad and promiscuous behaviour has nothing to do with it. As someone who could potentially pass it on, I can tell you that that is my biggest fear. Clearly the emotional problem is much more potent than the physical one.

  15. B

    I tested positive for Herpes Type 2 about two years ago and it has taken me about that long to accept the diagnosis. I had always heard of people having Herpes, but I always dismissed them as promiscuous. Full disclosure: I haven’t always been careful to practice safe sex so I do take full responsibility for my actions. The other part of having Herpes is that it doesn’t have to be a problem unless I make it a problem.
    I’ve had to have “the talk” with two men about my situation and I found that very difficult. Fortunately both were very supportive. I refuse to live my life being
    ashamed and I’m not letting it define me. There are MUCH worse things in life than having Herpes. The worst part by far has been the self imposed guilt and shame. Don’t waste your energy on those emotions!

  16. A

    Hello. I was just tested yesterday and the impending results look bleak. Same story you have heard a thousand times, cheating ex, painful lesions, etc. I’m hoping, by some miracle, it isn’t herpes, but in my heart, there’s no doubt. I immediately told my fairly new BF, bawling my eyes out the whole time. I’ve been bawling ever since because he has been WONDERFUL about this.
    That said, I can’t deny that I am completely out of my mind with fear, and I’m scared to be alone right now. I’m terrified of what I may do when all is said and done. I started the Valtrex, but if it’s always going to be this painful, I won’t be able to handle it.
    People’s Pharmacy response: Valtrex should get the pain under control quite well, and you will find from reading the other comments that it does get easier to handle.

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