Recently I was diagnosed with genital herpes. I didn't know that I had ever been exposed to it, and then an ex-boyfriend called to tell me that he was diagnosed seven months ago. I felt very betrayed and shocked that he waited so long to tell me. I haven't slept with anyone else, but learning this news has me totally devastated. I've been having a hard time moving forward, and I'm struggling with the thought that my life is essentially over. I'm just now starting to come to terms with the diagnosis, but my biggest fear is how and when I tell someone who I am interested in. I have gone on a couple of dates with a guy I really like, but I completely panic at the idea of having to tell him the news. I'm just terrified. Do you have any advice?
— Devastated by the Diagnosis Danielle
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Dear Devastated by the Diagnosis Danielle,
Your feelings of shock, betrayal, and sadness are all completely normal. To learn you'll have to deal with a lifelong disease, no matter how manageable, is very scary and will take some time to process. But Danielle, your life is not over. You are very much the same person you were before this diagnosis and can live just as fulfilling a life, both emotionally and sexually.
But it's true, part of the burden you'll have to deal with is sharing this very private information with any potential sexual partners. As far as timing, I would wait until you've moved beyond the casual dating point; you want to be able to trust and confide in him. Before you do, I think it's important that you recognize that having this disease doesn't define you. You have to accept yourself before you can expect others to.
While there is always some shame associated with STIs, remember that you're not guilty of anything, so don't divulge this info as if it's a confession, but rather approach it as a fact. Be honest with him, and ask him to return the favor by telling you his concerns. Openly discuss the risks together and go from there. You can't control his reaction, so if it's not what you were hoping for, then don't let it feel like a reflection of your worth. The more comfortable you become with this, the more at ease others will feel when you discuss it. Good luck!