Overcoming the Fear of Disclosure

Medical Reviewer

Should I say I have herpes or should I keep quiet? Without exception, every health professional or health educator will say you have a responsibility and a duty to disclose your condition. It sounds easy in principle, but how do you go about telling someone you have genital herpes? In this sharepost I outline a few of the more common reasons people give for not disclosing, and some ways to set about the business of disclosure:

  • Relative indifference to having herpes or not fully understanding its implications
  • fear of rejection.
  • Fear that the person will disclose your personal details to others.
  • It's just a one night stand, you don't feel bad in yourself, the risk is low.
  • The longer you wait and the more investment you have in a relationship the harder it gets.
  • You've already had unprotected sex and they seem fine.
  • Not knowing where to start or what to say. Perhaps this is due to your own confusion or lack of information about the issues. Perhaps it seems to complicated to explain, perhaps you doubt your ability to organize the information in a logical way.

Some tips on how and when to disclose:

  • assume a positive, confident attitude. If you present the information as if it is a disaster the chances are it will be received badly.
  • understand that the best time to tell someone is before you have sex - obviously not seconds before you commit - but when it looks obvious things are heading that way. Telling someone after the event does not allow them a choice and they could well feel betrayed or violated.
  • you might prefer to disclose on neutral ground. Go for a walk in the park and this will allow you a sense of space. Crowded shops or busy places with lots of distractions are to be avoided.
  • avoid emotionally charged statements like 'dreadful incurable STD' and replace with more optimistic phrases like 'a manageable and treatable condition'
  • keep in mind the person needs time to take in the information. Their initial reaction may change after they've thought things over. You must be prepared for this
  • don't blurt out the information but don't beat around the bush either. Lead into the topic by saying something along the lines of "can we talk about us for a few minutes and where we're going with our relationship. Try to sound natural and matter-of-fact.
  • it may be of some comfort to know that in the vast majority of cases the reaction is positive.