He Hid Herpes From His Wife

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This is a letter to Dear Abby from a woman who discovered her husband was taking herpes medication:

DEAR ABBY: Last year I found a bottle of Valtrex in my husband’s car. He had been taking the medicine for months.

When I asked him about it, he lied. I was devastated when I realized I had been exposed to herpes. He actually tried to say he got it from me, but later he admitted that he had been stepping out with random women while working out of town. (He’s a truck driver.) I had a blood test and thankfully I didn’t catch it.

What is the doctor’s responsibility in informing the spouse? I’m sure my ex is going to sleep around and infect others. We are divorced now, so I’m free of his lying and cheating, but I am fearful for others. He’s so lowdown that he will spread it to other women and not care. Should I be concerned, or should I just leave it alone since he’s not my problem anymore?

– Heartbroken in Alabama

Dear Abby responded:

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: Unless your husband gave his physician permission to reveal his medical status to you, the doctor was bound by HIPAA regulations, and by law could not warn you that your husband had an STD. (Yes, I agree, this aspect of the law is disgusting.)

Much as you might wish to, there’s nothing you can do to control your former spouse’s behavior. My doctor tells me that herpes is most contagious during an outbreak. The risk is far less when the person is not shedding the virus. Valtrex further decreases the chances of spreading it, although it’s still possible.

If the result of the blood test you were given was negative, then you have never been exposed. However, if you have any symptoms, such as itching or swollen lymph nodes in your groin, you should let your OB/GYN know right away.

I would like to add:

Several years ago, I traveled the country speaking to groups of heath care professionals about this very topic. The consensus was that doctors would tell their patients that as long as they were taking antiviral medication and as long as they controlled their virus, they were not required to tell. It was simply a moral decision. Many people are of the belief that unless they are having an outbreak, they are not at risk of transmitting the virus.

Many health care providers know that most people carry at least one of the herpes viruses and when the herpes infection is exposed to unknowing partners, the health care provider is often thrust into the roll of being a relationship counselor. There is no way to convince the unknowing partner that they have not be cheated on.

This is the BIG reason it is SO important to have proper STD tests before going into any relationship that may become intimate. Proper STD testing is NOT as simple as asking for an STD screen – you HAVE to ask to be tested for Herpes, HPV and HIV – so make sure you are being tested for those.

If you have recently been tested, I would encourage you to call your doctor and find out WHAT you were tested for, SPECIFICALLY!

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