People with chronic sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes and genital warts, face additional challenges in talking with partners. Not only do they need to think about all the issues discussed in this chapter, they also need to decide how and when to talk with new partners about these conditions. If you are in this situation, an open discussion about STDs is important for the benefit of your partner as well as for you. You must still think about safer sex to limit your chances of acquiring another sexually transmitted infection. People with genital herpes, for example, may be more vulnerable to acquiring other STDs, because breaks in the skin make acquisition of certain other STDs easier.
Five months ago, John was diagnosed with genital herpes after being together with Susan for about two years. Susan never told John that she had herpes, because she thought she could always tell when she had an outbreak and could therefore protect him from becoming infected by being careful. Although she knew it was possible to pass on herpes even without an outbreak, she was afraid that partners would not want to be with her if they knew she was infected.
When John was diagnosed he was devastated, and it made it worse that Susan had not been honest with him early in their relationship. Susan explained why she hadn’t told him about her herpes, but he found it difficult to trust her after that. Things were not going well in their relationship for other reasons as well, and they broke up about three months later. John decided to become as informed about herpes as possible, and he made up his mind to tell future partners about his herpes before becoming intimate with them.