Second Breakout Reality Check

by X

I would first like to say that I'm happy to see this support site for people living with this condition. I would like to tell my story.

I'm a 32 year old gay man that has been living in Europe for the last decade. I have always been in relationships and don't really fit the cliché of a promiscuous gay man. Since I was 20, I've been single for a total of 6 months, and was, up until recently, in my fourth long term relationship. With my last relationship included, my number of sexual partners was up to 13 over a period of 11 years. For some, that might seem like a lot. But when I compare myself to my friends, gay or straight, it's actually quite low these days. But that's beside the point. It can happen with your very first partner.

I was first diagnosed in November of 2011. I had been monogamous with my boyfriend for over a month. We had been using protection for penetration, but during foreplay there were no barriers. I guess you would call it dry humping.

He left for Italy (as we were in a 600km long distance relationship) and 2 days later I felt two raised bumps that looked like pimples on the underside of my shaft that had been doing the rubbing. I thought it was just irritation from rubbing against the hair on his body during the foreplay. Then a couple of more bumps came and they started ulcerating, and I started getting scared. I went to the doctor ASAP. I was praying it was syphilis because that at least had a cure! I had no other symptoms (no fever, no headache... just the bumps). He had a look at it and said, "It looks like herpes, but it could be something different."

During my visit, I asked for a full STD workup (which doesn't include herpes... probably because it's so common). He also prescribed an anti-viral and a cream for staph infection. I went home with my medicine and took a shower and cried my eyes out. The typical feelings like I was damaged goods, that I would never find anyone that wasn't disgusted by me, by the fear of catching this virus. I kept thinking of myself as a host of an alien body that I couldn't control.

I called my boyfriend and it was so hard to ask him without accusing him. We had only been monogamous for maybe 6 weeks, but I had never had symptoms before. But after I was reading into transmission, I was sure that it must have been him. I remembered his stay at my house, him taking his temperature because he thought he had a fever... which is conducive to viral shedding. My symptoms came relatively quickly, within 2 days.

So, anyway, I told him that I had found some bumps on my penis and I wanted to know if he'd had any knowledge of having the virus. He told me that he didn't and hoped that I knew that if he had known, he would have warned me. I cried over the phone because I thought it was going to put even more strain on a long distance relationship. But he was supportive and said, "I like you, and you like me... there's no problem." It consoled me a bit.

I went to see him about a week later while I still had the symptoms, with a couple of more bumps that
had sprung up in the meantime. We were cuddling and I was excited and he reached down to touch me... and I grabbed his hand to stop him and I started bawling my eyes out. He started crying and feeling guilty for having unwittingly passed it to me. He asked if he could see it, and it wasn't as bad as some of the pictures on the internet, and he was good at consoling me. And we moved on.

And now, 13 months later and 3 weeks after the love of my life has asked for a "break" (AKA dumped me), I came down with strep throat which had provoked a fever. I hadn't had a second breakout for that entire time. I had told myself I had gotten away scott free and that it must have been staph infection and that my doctor's iffy diagnosis was wrong. But then 2 days after my 39° C fever and a trip to the swimming pool and in the Swedish sauna, I stared feeling an itch. I just thought it was the synthetic fabric of my bathing suit.

Later that night, I went for a pee and I ran my finger under my shaft and felt something strange. I turned it over and saw a slew of little blisters and redness in around the same spot as last time, only worse. I was at a friend’s house helping her move and I was devastated - again. I had to keep my poker face and move on, but all I wanted to do was go home! But to whom? I had no one to talk to because my boyfriend (or ex?) needs his break... and calling him to tell him this won't change anything for the future. So, I'm keeping it to myself, reading all I can to help me cope and control these feelings of worthlessness... that I'm contaminated... tainted...

I'm 5 days into my second breakout and I would say that it's 3 times worse than the first. It's painful, and I'm having difficulty treating and soothing it. I'm scared for the fact that it's on the underside of my shaft that it will spread to my scrotum, which would only make matters worse. I'm taking Lysine, but I don't think it helps much. Valtrex worked a bit the first time, but I'm finding it hard to face my new doctor to explain everything. Plus she's a woman and I'm not that comfortable showing her for now. I've decided to let it run its course and see how long it takes my body to fight it off naturally.

Today I'm hoping I'm one of the lucky ones that only get a breakout when I get a fever. I've had some stressful times over the past 13 months, but the fever and strep throat seem to have been what brought it out this time.

What I'm having a difficult time with today is the fact that I'm alone. I'm seeing myself having to say this to potential future partners, and I think I would rather just be alone.

My only hope is that the current therapeutic vaccine trial by Genocea yields positive results. They expect their first results in February 2014... in just 14 months from now! I encourage any of you who are within range of a trial clinic to sign up! Have a look at this website:

Good luck to you all. I'm sincerely happy for those of you that have found supportive partners!

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