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I've Given My Girlfriend an STD


Published August 19, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.

Dear Athena,

I've slept with a bunch of women recently. I was pretty heartbroken after a breakup and went a little crazy having lots of sex with lots of different girls. Now some girl I had sex with called me up and said she has genital herpes. She thinks I'm the one who gave it to her. I went to the doctor, and it seems I do have herpes also — but I had no idea. She was pretty pissed about it. Thing is, I had sex with her a while ago and then with a bunch of other women after. What should I do? Also, I just got back together with the girl I really like and had broken up with, and we have slept together a lot since then. Now I probably gave her herpes, and she is going to find out that I had sex with all these women. I don't want to lose her. I don't know what to do.

Dude With an STD Dilemma

Dear Dude,

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every six Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 has genital herpes. It's pretty common, and one of the tough things about it is that most people don't know they have it until they experience sores. It sounds like your sex buddy felt the symptoms before you did.

There is no cure for genital herpes, but I imagine your doc explained how to manage it with medication. I highly suggest you get on board with a treatment plan pronto. It sucks, but you're stuck with it.

Next step: Apologize to the girl who alerted you to the problem and move on. You didn't intentionally give her herpes, right? You can't make her feel better, but you can warn the other women with whom you had unprotected sex. It's time to make some uncomfortable phone calls.

Yes, it'll be awkward. But you have to fess up and encourage these ladies to get tested. Contact long-ago sex partners, too; this particular STD may have been dormant in you for longer than you think. It's important to give these women a chance to ask questions and react honestly. Offer them resources, and don't get defensive; remember how you felt when you found out. The sooner you tell them, the sooner they can seek any necessary treatment.

The harder conversation will be with your girlfriend. Do it in person, right away. You absolutely cannot be intimate with her again until she knows. And if you have already had sex with her while knowing about your situation, shame on you.

Tell her what happened. Be completely honest. She'll likely be bummed to learn about the other women, but you were broken up — that's part of the deal. Show your support by offering to go with her to get tested. If she gets upset or angry, give her space. It's a lot to take in.

Hopefully, she'll be understanding, and you can move past this together. If you take the proper precautions and get treatment, there's no reason why you two can't maintain a healthy sexual relationship. Fingers crossed.