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Had H for Years and Did Not Realize It, Now May have Infected a Loved One

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I am new to this discussion and hoping to find some solace, reassurance or advice. I am 58 years old and just separated from my husband of 20 years. He had an affair with someone I knew. It was a hellish experience and a bitter divorce, but I was finally getting back on my feet. When I was ready to date, I underwent a battery of STD tests, all were negative. I did not get an HSV test because I told my doctor I had no symptoms.


I met a wonderful man online earlier this year and fell hard for him. He was just out of his marriage, too. We did not have sex right away because he went overseas shortly afterward but we corresponded the whole time. Once he returned in March, we began having unprotected sex. Two days after vigorous sex I felt a burning and found one tiny lesion which looked like an infected cut. It was swabbed and the test came back HSV2 positive. I was devastated and communicated with him immediately (he is overseas again for the next ten days). He was shocked and told me had had been celibate for years before he met me.


After I did some research I realize now I have had H for years in the form of sacral herpes. The rash on my lower back in the same area about the size of a quarter started when my daughter was in preschool. I thought it came from a trip to Africa and had a doctor examine the area during an outbreak. I remember the doctor telling me it was herpes, and may have even said Herpes Zoster. I really don't remember. I do remember what she did not say: that I had a sexually transmitted disease. I would have remembered that. I went home and looked up back herpes and that's what came up on the internet. So I kept the area covered during outbreaks and put calamine lotion on the blisters. By then I had been married about 14 or 15 years and had never experienced any outbreaks on my genitals that I was aware of. I never had an initial exposure moment. To my knowledge, my ex is uninfected or, alternatively, is unaware he has H and infected me.


I was self conscious about the scars the rash left on my back and was going to get the shingles vaccine since the rash was becoming more frequent in recent months since I started dating. I was embarrassed to tell my gentleman friend I had shingles because of the name Herpes Zoster. I did have one date with him when my back was a bit itchy but no blisters. That was probably when I put him most at risk.


Now it all makes sense -- the headaches and the outbreaks happening usually before my period or after an moment of stress. How could I have been so stupid? I don't know how long I have had herpes-- I could have picked it up in college but no one I have been involved with sexually (before my marriage or since) has indicated a problem. I never even knew there was such a thing as sacral herpes. I have no idea how I got it. All I know is that I am deeply ashamed and sick at heart that I may have infected someone I deeply care about. I am worried about all the times my daughter slept in my bed or used a towel of mine and I may have infected her (she's now 15). Should I have her tested?


Had I just asked a few more questions of that doctor all those years ago, I would have known and done a better job of protecting others. Before he left for his overseas assignment my gentlemen friend complained of headaches so I am pretty sure I have infected him. Since we corresponded about this he's been taking it okay but now been completely silent. But I am sure he is thinking what an idiot I have been, to have had a rash and not known all this time.


So I have some questions -- if I have sacral herpes and infected my friend, will that be the area where it presents? Has anyone else been misdiagnosed with herpes zoster? Is this common? Is it possible my daughter could have been infected by sleeping in the same bed or using a towel? Can I be sued for this? Are there strategies for dealing with the very intense grief I feel now? Everyone on this forum seems so much younger. I felt ridiculous enough dating in my 50s -- now to be dating and infected with an incurable STI seems even more ridiculous.

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First of all,

My parents divorced in their mid fourties and dated into their fifites before they each found someone new (and better for themselves) to marry.

Having been an adult and very close with each of them during that time, I can tell you dating doesn't change no matter what your age.

They felt uncomfortable, nervous and wierd about it, just like I did when I first started dating. Or when I got back into dating in my late 20's after a failed relationship.

So, I empathize with the dating trouble.


But remind yourself that herpes isn't going to ruin anything that would have been. The guy who ditches you over herpes wasn't going to stick around anyway. More importantly, it would be rare that someone else in their fifties would be shocked by your disclosure. Statistically, they've either met a few people who disclosed before, or they never just never knew they were at risk.


You're still the same great person that you've always been. I'd take it you know yourself pretty well, and you know how to find things in yourself that you appreciate. The right person, the person who's going to stick around, will see those qualities to. More importantly, they'll know those qualities are rare.


So, practice appreiating yourself. Practice dating. Practice steering your train of thought away from guilt and sadness and toward how you want the future to be.


As far as your current dating situation. You didn't know. Sadly, that's pretty common. But you can't take responsibility for never knowing, thinking you did everything you had to, knowing you did everything you could to protect future partners by getting tested and seeing a doctor.

You wouldn't be the first person to be let down by the medical community and find out the truth in the worst way.


But you can offer the guy some support, help him get questions answered and a test for the virus. If he doesn't want your help, you can't force it on him.


To help your recovery,

First unburden yourself from the hard way you learned about your diagnosis. Because you thought you were doing right.

Next, make a plan to do something exciting soon. It'll help you to look forward to the future more and back toward regret less.

Then focus on thinking about things you appreciate about yourself while you keep doing the things you've always enjoyed. It'll help you to feel like yourself again.


If I could recommend pointing you to my thread, "First day and trying to stay upbeat".

It's a lot of reading, but the bottom line is this:

Keep being you.

Keep focused on goals, people who are important to you.

Let go of the anger, sadness and shame as much as you can because you don't deserve to feel that way.

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Thank you for those words. You hit it on the head when you wrote that herpes isn't going to ruin anything that might have been. I guess you are right. It's still hard to get out of this dark place I am in.


I also spoke to my doctor about the the fact that I had sacral herpes which was misdiagnosed as shingles. I now remember that when I was first diagnosed about 10 years ago I was sent to a dermatologist and the area was never swabbed. I was never given a blood test. The doctor says it's possible that I did have shingles all this time and I was just recently infected with HSV2. Is it weird that I hope she is right? That this is a new infection and that the guy I am seeing gave this to me? It's an easier reality for me to dwell in that the fact that I gave it to him.


Anyway, thank you.




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