HOW’S THAT POSSIBLE? MEET OUR KOOYRIG, ANON ANI.
Ani lives in Yerevan has been in a monogamous relationship for five years. Ani is a carrier of HSV2 (herpes) but she doesn’t know it. Though she became a carrier of the virus 8 years ago, Ani has never experienced symptoms. She unknowingly transmitted the virus to her partner, Shant. He is also now a carrier but doesn’t know it. This is pretty common, since little to no symptoms occur in 80% of HSV2 carriers.
One day Ani wakes up and notices some bumps on her groin that look like ingrown hairs. Erring on the side of caution, she visits her gyno. Her bumps are swabbed and she’s quickly diagnosed with HSV2. She’s in shock as she calls up Shant with the diagnosis. He’s livid. He immediately accuses her of cheating and wants to break up. Ani is dumbfounded, she hasn’t been with anyone else for years.
...so what’s the deal?
Herpes is an STI that’s usually spread by people who don’t know they carry the virus. It’s tricky to know if you carry the virus unless you’re blatantly testing for it. Even then, blood tests for HSV2 are notoriously inaccurate. In most of the world, HSV2 testing isn’t even apart of standard STI tests. Some doctors don’t diagnose herpes because they believe the psychological strain of it’s stigma is worse than it’s minimal health implications. Since HSV2 transmits through skin to skin contact, even condoms couldn’t completely eliminate the chance of Ani transmitting to her mans. Herpes is chronic, but that doesn’t mean the physical symptoms are always hellish. It’s actually super treatable. Women like Ani can take medicine to minimize their chances of transmission to near only 2%.
While this is true, let us not ignore the psychological trauma Ani may be facing due to her abrupt diagnosis. First off, herpes comes with some heavy stigma baggage. On top of that, she’s being accused of lying and sleeping around. In addition, she’s going to have to be a responsible sexual citizen by calling/texting everyone she’s hooked up with in the past 8 years (pre-Shant) to let them know of her diagnosis and encourage them to get tested.
Cases like Ani’s are not rare. It’s possible for a person to wake up with an STI outbreak without recently acquiring the virus. Cases like Ani and Shant's have unfortunately pushed many relationships to a screeching halt due to lack of sex-ed. Ultimately, transmission is complicated. A lot of times, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when an STI was transmitted regardless of the timing of the initial outbreak.