Sunday, April 19, 2009

Coping With Herpes

A typical case, suppose that Kate is college sophomore who is not seriously involved with anyone. It's not that no one is interested in her. Rather, she has been in relationships that didn't commit her emotions lightly. At a party, she meet Paul, whom she remembers having seen in her psychology classes. They enjoy talking and spend the rest of the party together, and several weeks later, they have sex.

A week later, Kate notices painful blister on her thighs and genitals. At first, she is unconcerned. She has had bladder infections, and she supposes that this may be some variations of that ailment. Nevertheless, the next time she sees Paul, she ask his as casualty as she can whether he has ever had venereal diseases. He denied it and she believes him. But when the blister persist for a few days, she decided to go to the University health service. There a doctor takes a culture. A week later, the doctor inform her that she has herpes. She learns that she almost certainly contracted the diseases when she had sex with Paul.

When she returns to the dorm, she calls Paul and tells him she has to talk to him right away. When he arrives, she gives him the news and angrily ask him what he has to say for himself. Flustered, he denies that he has herpes; he goes so far as to accuse her of giving it to him. Kate was angry before, but this infuriates her. They have a brief but very nasty argument and then Paul stalks off. She's disgusted and upset.

"That's the end of that," she says to herself.

Over the next few weeks, however, she slowly realizes the implications of what has happened to her. The diseases, of course, has not ended with the relationship, she has the diseases, it's incurable, and she may give it to anyone she's intimate with. She tries to stop thinking about it, but that makes her feel devious, as if she's hiding something. She's ashamed to tell her friends, even her roommate. Her self-esteem plummets. "Why would anyone want to be involved with me now?" she ask herself. She worries: What would her parents say? Will it be safe for her to have children? Will she be alone for the rest of her life?

For a few months, she avoid men. Although she knows it's unreasonable, she finds that she distrusts all men. But when the new semester begins, she is assigned to a project in arts class with a junior, Brian, and they and they are instantly attracted to each other. He's interesting and sympathetic, and it's soon clear that they are very fond of each other. Ordinarily, they would become lovers, but Kate is faced with a difficult choice. She can either tell Brian that she has herpes and risk loving him, or she can plunge into the relationship and try to avoid sex during the periods when the diseases is most contagious, hoping that if he finds out he will care enough about her to stay with her.

If you were in Kate position, what would you do? What would you want her to do if you were Brian?
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