How to Tell Your Partner You Have Genital Herpes

Revealing a genital herpes diagnosis to a romantic partner can feel like an extremely daunting challenge. Social stigma, fear of rejection, and a general misunderstanding of the condition contribute to how uncomfortable this conversation can be, but it's an important one to have.

The most important thing you can do when you're fretting about revealing your diagnosis is to educate yourself about genital herpes and its transmission. That way you can answer any of your partner's questions.

Two people holding hands outside of a subway station looking serious

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Below is a script to help you get started thinking about some of the issues to consider when telling someone you have herpes.

Your Partner Has a Right to Know

It's better to disclose your diagnosis before you plan any type of sexual intimacy. This will give your partner time to digest the information. That way you can avoid either one of you doing anything you'll regret in the heat of the moment.

Herpes does not have to be a dating nonstarter, but it's important to be honest with your partner so they are aware of the potential risks posed to them and can take proper precautions.

Sample Script

I really like you, and I like how this relationship is going, but before we become intimate, I need to tell you that [_] years ago, I was diagnosed with genital herpes [_] years ago. I know that hearing the word "herpes" freaks a lot of people out, but before you panic, there are some things I want to make sure you know about the disease.

The first is that herpes is extremely common. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that almost 1 in 6 women and 1 in 12 men have genital herpes. But unfortunately, very few of them know they have it since most doctors don't screen for it routinely, even if they're doing other tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

In many people, herpes doesn't cause any symptoms, which is why it's so common.

I don't know if you've been tested for herpes, but being diagnosed has led me to believe in the importance of getting tested and in asking my partners to be tested before we start having sex so we know where we stand.

It can be scary waiting to find out results or dealing with them, but I think it's only fair to treat the people I care about the way I would want to be treated. That means being upfront and honest about information that I think they have a right to know.

I would like to be intimate with you in the future, so if you haven't been tested recently, it would be great if you would consider doing so. I really like you, or else I wouldn't be having this awkward conversation.

Finally, there is one more thing I wanted to bring up. Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent herpes transmission between two people, daily suppressive therapy can help reduce transmission, and I am taking [considering taking/not taking] it.

Using barriers for all forms of sex, including oral sex, can also help reduce transmission and I think we should plan to do so. I'll also let you know if I think I may be having an outbreak so that we can postpone sex.

I really hope I haven't scared you off. Please take some time to read about herpes from a reliable source and think about what I've told you.

In the meantime . . . do you want to get dessert?

1 Source
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital herpes - CDC fact sheet (detailed).

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.