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But all the self-acceptance in the world doesn’t erase the fact that a herpes diagnosis creates ripple effects of shame and social isolation, and the fallout is especially pronounced when it comes to your dating life.“It’s good to have the conversation because there is a potential risk of transmission,” Cherrell Triplett, M.D., an ob/gyn who practices at Southside OBGYN and Franciscan Alliance in Indianapolis, Indiana, tells SELF.Others just write, “I have herpes” in their profiles, and Davis says her friends in this camp still have plenty of people knocking on their online-dating doors.You can have great sex, find love, and also cut down on the chance of passing herpes along to your partner, Triplett says.“On a first date with this wonderful guy, I told him, and he couldn’t handle it,” she says.

“If they want to cut and run, I haven’t invested too much of myself in it.”But in the future, she thinks she’ll take her time disclosing as long as she gets it done before engaging in sexual activities that would put the other person at risk.Jenelle Marie Davis, 34, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, will gladly explain why having herpes isn’t the end of the world. It took years for Davis, founder of The STD Project, which encourages awareness and acceptance of various sexually transmitted diseases, and spokesperson for Positive Singles, a dating site for people with STDs, to come to terms with the diagnosis she got at age 16.“My mom says the entire way home from my appointment, I cried and said no one would ever love me, no one would ever want me, and I’d never get married,” Davis tells SELF.When she was diagnosed with herpes almost three years ago, Whitney Carlson, 29, a social media editor in Chicago, had a similar reaction.“This isn’t everyone’s experience, but when I started dating with herpes, I found out none of my partners cared.”Although she sees that it’s intriguing to potentially avoid attachment—and thus heartbreak—by telling someone right out the gate, she makes an excellent point in favor of taking your time: “Nobody tells you all of the things about themselves that you usually don’t find out for a bit, like they have really bad credit or they’re a horrible cook, until you get to know each other.” Of course, it’s different with a health condition you can pass to someone else, but it’s worth noting.Although they tell potential partners at different points in the relationship, Carlson and Davis’ actual disclosure process is pretty similar.They both say it can be nerve-racking, but a few things help: sitting the person down in a place that’s comfortable for them, trying not to be too emotional, starting off with something like, “Hey, there’s something I need to talk to you about,” and bringing a wealth of knowledge to the conversation.“I always try to be calm and not too clinical but explain that I have done the research,” Carlson says.

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