Herpy new year!

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Dear Sasha,

I am a 51-year-old man recently diagnosed with herpes. To be honest, I can’t believe I made it this long without contracting it. I won’t go into my sexual past, especially during the ‘80s, but I’m guessing Simon Le Bon and I are pretty much neck-and-neck in the girl department. Okay, maybe I’m a tad behind him, but I did make my mark in Sudbury, at least.

I’m just asking for a bit of space to do this, Sasha: Hey, folks in your 50s, 60s and 70s! You can get STIs just as well as younger people. Careful out there! I guess I was feeling a little like I was immune (I’m not kidding — it really did seem that way, considering what I got up to), and maybe I got a little cocky. Also, any support or words you care to send my way would be much appreciated.

—Daring D

Dear Daring,

Yes, it’s true that there is no expiration date on getting an STI, which is kinda funny in a way. It sort of feels like heading out on a bike ride in your 40s and breaking your front tooth falling over your handlebars. Shouldn’t you have had that accident out of the way when you were eight?

I consulted with my STI go-to gal, Lyba Spring, and she offered this: “In fact, infections are rising in the older population, who are unaware, unused to using protection and have few skills around negotiating safer sex. HIV infections among Canadians 50-plus have almost doubled from 7.6 per cent in 1998 to 13.8 per cent in 2006.”

I also find this news really interesting: “Most new herpes infections are a result of unprotected oral sex with a person who has a history of cold sores (HSV-1).” This means people are contracting genital herpes from people going down on them, or the other way around. As the Westover Heights Herpes Handbook says, “HSV-1 is increasingly the cause of genital herpes infections as oral-genital contact becomes a more routine part of sexual expression.”

The other thing that might be of note to you is this, according to the Herpes Handbook: “A person could have genital herpes for 30 years, not know it and then have their first recognized recurrence! When they finally do have an outbreak they recognize, it can cause unnecessary havoc in a relationship when issues of fidelity arise.”

You didn’t mention whether you know from whom you acquired herpes, and I don’t know if you had any long-term marriage-type relationships, so it is possible that you’ve had herpes since the song “Down Under” by Men at Work was a hit. In fact, D, you might find several songs among the top hits of 1983 that make an excellent pun for this possibility. That year’s pop songs were rife with herpes transmission double entendres, it turns out.

“Most transmissions take place in the absence of symptoms, because the virus sheds,” Lyba adds. “It is impossible to know when/how many days per month you shed virus. With something like one-fifth of people positive for HSV-2 (genital herpes), it is no surprise that he contracted it. He is certainly not alone.”

And this news, which flies in the face of so much STI contraction lore: “One is more likely to contract it in a long-term relationship, so he needn’t beat himself up about having had multiple partners. I should also say that you can get herpes anywhere in the boxer shorts area from skin to skin contact; condoms or dental dams are only protective for the parts that are covered. That said, in terms of future immunity, if you have type 2, it’s highly unlikely you will ever get type 1. But if you have type 1, you can certainly get type 2.

“The next time he has an outbreak and a doctor swabs the lesion, the lab can tell him which type he has,” she says. “If he has HSV-1, it tends not to recur as frequently as HSV-2.”
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PUT ME IN, COACH!

Dear Sasha,

Long-time reader, first-time writer (always wanted to write that). Here’s the question: is there such a thing as a real (read: not a hack) sex coach out there we could hire to tighten up our intimate activities?

Athletes have coaches walking them through slap shots or putts or a right hook. With something as important and as frequently poorly executed as sex, are there not people we can pay to come into our bedroom or living room or pool deck to make us sexual Olympians (or at least improve our amateur ranking)?

My wonderful partner and I have a healthy and happy sex life — we think. But wouldn’t it be good if we could get a third party to confirm that or, if we’re wrong, give us a routine to follow, like a personal trainer? Looking forward to your reply.

—Bill Vlaad

Dear Bill,

Yes, just as there are life and sport coaches, there are sex coaches.

“It is not a regulated discipline, so you have to find someone you feel comfortable with,” says Carlyle Jansen of Toronto-area sex shop Good for Her. “Coaching is different than therapy in that it generally takes one or a few sessions, and doesn’t delve as much into the past. It involves talking about what’s working — what you’d like to change, enhance, explore, let go of — and education, and suggestions with homework on how to make it better. Some people seek a coach on their own, and some in partnership.”

Several of the workshop facilitators at Good for Her, including Carlyle herself, offer personalized services. “Not all of us necessarily call it coaching,” she says, “but we work within the realm of what Bill says he’s looking for.”

Check out the list of facilitators to see if any of them meet your needs and will travel. You can inquire about their availability and fees for private sessions via the website.

Carlyle thinks it’s great that you’re looking to enhance you relationship now. “Many wait until boredom, resentment or frustration builds to such a point that makes it harder to salvage,” she says. 

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