Name: Tam
Age: 23
Sex: F
Occupation: Technical Writer/Professional Writing tutor for Graduate students
Type: HSV 2
Yr Infected: 7 months (Nov/Dec '97)
OB's per yr: countless

Prodromes: Typical tingling, burning, and stabbing pains, which don't always result in sores. I also get a feeling of fullness in my vagina. If I get prolonged, localized itching, I know a sore is sure to develop. I have also been very tired at times, and have had a sore neck and swollen glands, which I can't be sure are H related.

Method of control: I take Valtrex suppressively, and I'm currently on a high dosage (2000 mgs per day). This is the only thing that has worked for me so far. 1000mgs didn't cut it. I think the duration of the outbreak was shortened on 1000mgs, but the outbreak itself still occurred.

I have also started using a mental/visualization technique where I imagine my immune system fighting off the virus. I also try to laugh out loud sometimes to suppress feelings of stress. It sounds strange, but I say just do what works.

My Story: I had broken up with a live-in, monogamous boyfriend of 4 years. I was feeling vulnerable and needy, so I began a "relationship" with a friend of a friend. I knew he had been around (he is a highly flirtatious bartender who follows through on his advances), so I forced him to get an HIV test before we slept together. When that came back negative, I still insisted on using a condom during sex. We only had PROTECTED sex three times. That was enough. I thought that being negative for HIV was all I really had to be concerned about. I had never really consider that contracting Herpes was a plausible or realistic scenario. I consider myself unlucky that I have an incurable
STD, but also lucky that I still have my life, and that what I have is manageable, if nothing else.

Medical Experiences: When I was diagnosed two months after being infected, my Doctor was very cold and nonchalant in her treatment of me. She wasn't really concerned about the fact that I had herpes. She was more concerned that I may have contracted something worse. She shrugged her shoulders and said, "Well, you can still have children." She gave me a prescription for Valtrex and left me crying in her office. She never offered any information about protecting partners, where I could go for support, or how I could deal with this emotionally. She didn't tell me anything about the infection whatsoever. It was a terrible experience.

Telling: I had to tell my boyfriend about this after we had already been sleeping together for 2 months. I didn't develop symptoms until long after I was infected (Two months), and had began a relationship with him before I knew I had H. When I told him, I was so scared that I burst out into tears and began sobbing uncontrollably. Finally, I got it out. He thought that I was going to tell him something much worse, and when I
told him "herpes" he said, "Oh God, that's it? Well then, what's the problem?" He asked me what the symptoms were like, how often I had it, and other questions along those lines. I gave him information to read, but he said it wasn't a big enough issue to make him leave me. He never even considered leaving.

Eventually, he did contract it orally, which was much harder on me than it was on him. I felt overwhelming guilt, but he just said it was something we'd just deal with. For him, it is always a secondary issue. For me, it always looms large in the forefront of my mind. Maybe that will change over time.