STIs: Knowledge is Power


Haley was a busy mom of five school age children who worked outside of the home as a chartered accountant.  She had been married to Liam for twenty years and had not had sex with him since the last child was born six years prior.  She knew this was unhealthy and not normal making life at home very challenging, as it created a tremendous amount of tension in their relationship. This impacted their relationship and unbeknownst to them likely affected their children.

Haley and I discussed inter-relational issues and finance troubles they had had over the years, which brought them to this place where sex was not important.  Liam had recently inherited a sizeable amount of money from an uncle, which seemed to have helped to get them back on track, taking some of the pressure off and seemed to help them get along better.  At least they were able to discuss and enjoy some of life’s simple pleasures now that they were able to pay off some debt and ward off creditors.

Haley was uncomfortable with initiating sex again and she had not even discussed this with Liam. They had almost gotten used to this “sexless way of life.”  We talked about ensuring she was not experiencing vaginal dryness and that especially in the beginning she may need lubrication like V-Love which is a lubricant as well as a sexual desire gel.

Given the biological differences between men and women and the need men have for sex, along with suspicions that Haley had about Liam's fidelity,  I suggested there was a possibility that Liam had gone outside of the relationship and may have had sex with other women during their "dry spell”. Therefore I felt compelled to discuss the possibility of Haley contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).  I suggested that both of them go for sexual health testing. 

Despite her suspicions Haley was fairly confident Liam had not strayed. Besides she said who would want to have sex with him anyway, he is usually so miserable and negative. I told Haley her sentiment may not be share by other women.  Pleasure is the priority when men stray and the "other woman" often gets the best in a man because they are not dealing with day to day marital issues which can drag a couple down. This is probably why so many "other women" are surprised when their lover does not typically leave their spouse, but that is another post.  I suggested that Haley at least insist Liam use condoms during sex. Haley appreciated my suggestion but felt it did not apply in her case.

Several weeks later Haley returned to my clinic urgently. She was understandably very upset and asked me to look at some new lesions below her waist.  She and Liam had had sex only once since our last visit and within a few weeks she developed genital sores.  It appeared to be herpes and further STI testing confirmed my suspicion.

As it turns out Liam fessed up that while on a business trip, his boss had brought hookers in to provide oral sex to all of the male marketing agents in the company. He explained to Haley that he could not say no under the circumstances as he felt pressure during the session.  Plus, he added, well you weren't having sex with me anyway so I was desperate. 

Well I am not so sure I fully believe Liam but Haley did and that was what was important.  Herpes is an extremely common contagious viral infection. Many people are angry, confused and upset with the diagnosis. There is treatment available and the following few tips may decrease outbreaks; 

  • Maintaining general good health
  • Stress Management
  • Increasing Lysine and L-arginine in your diet

 Women with genital herpes should not skip their pap smear.   I remember thinking how sad it was that Haley had contracted an STI.  That said it is an extremely common and contagious infection. 

Sexual health is an extremely important subject and education is key.  No one is really immune from an STI and this situation would certainly impact Haley’s relationship but with the right mindset, understanding of circumstances and taking a look at herself and her role in this most unfortunate situation, Haley would come to grips with her diagnosis.   Life is a gravel road and we usually will become stronger when we deal with and/or conquer life’s challenges.

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