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Sun on Sunday – 29-4-2012

‘I’ve had sex with eight men even though I know I’ve got herpes’

Student, 19, puts lovers in peril

By JENNIFER TIPPETT   Published: 29th April 2012

With comments on each point, by the Herpes Viruses Association, in red:

A RECKLESS teenager told by doctors that she had one of the worst cases of herpes they had ever seen has confessed to bedding EIGHT lovers since she was diagnosed.

But she told them all and used condoms and avoided sex after an outbreak.  This is far more than people who have had facial cold sores do – and genital herpes is a cold sore in a different place.  

Astonishingly, misguided Marquita Church, 19, thinks it’s her right to sleep around without taking precautions.

The student said: “The majority of guys ask to NOT use a condom — so I don’t feel bad.  That is their choice after she has informed them.  If she has no symptoms they are taking a very low risk.

“Most don’t ask about my sexual history and if they do, they don’t care. It’s their responsibility as much as mine.  Correct.

“I love sex so I’ve slept with eight men since my diagnosis without protection.”

Again – that is their choice.  Nobody expects people who have had a facial cold sore to use ‘protection’ every time they kiss someone.

Scarily, she added: “It’s probably silly and reckless, but life is too short to give up things you love — and I love sex.”

Marquita, from Newquay, Cornwall, caught herpes from one of her many partners three years ago when she was just 16.

She still carries the virus and can pass it on through sex — especially if she is suffering a flare-up of symptoms at the time.  Except that she makes a point of saying that she is not having sex when she has flare-ups.

Marquita, who became sexually active at 14 and is on the Pill, told how doctors diagnosed a severe case of herpes when she was taken ill — just two months after being treated for chlamydia.

She woke one morning with a stinging red rash all over her genital area and legs. By the end of the day the entire area was covered in blisters.

She added: “Two days later I had a sky-high temperature, I couldn’t wee and my bladder was swollen. I felt so unwell.”

Marquita’s worried parents took her to hospital, where a doctor recognised herpes — and said the sores had become infected.

The teenager recalled: “He told me it was one of the worst cases he had ever seen. It had spread to my bladder, bowels, digestive tract and even my throat.

This is bad luck: a few people get bad primary symptoms and 80% get no symptoms or only very slight symptoms.

“He told me the herpes virus would be in my system for life and that I can pass it on to anyone I have sex with. He also said that I was most infectious when the symptoms show and for six weeks afterwards.”

This is incorrect.  The risk of transmission will be very low from about four days after skin heals following an outbreak.  Six weeks is quite wrong.  Saying that the virus is ‘incurable’ or life long’ is a scare tactic that dates back to the original antiviral drug marketing campaign in the 1980s.  Chickenpox, glandular fever and even thrush are also ‘incurable’ and ‘life long’ but nobody talks about them in this negative and prejudicial way.

When she was allowed home from hospital a few days later, her parents were silent.

She said: “They were clearly disappointed and I felt bad. I couldn’t imagine ever having sex again. I felt cheap and dirty.”

That didn’t last long.

Three months later Marquita — who says she is allergic to ordinary latex condoms — was back having unprotected sex.

She said: “I got my libido back and managed to get with my conquest at a party. The non-latex condoms are just too expensive so I didn’t bother being careful. At the crucial moment, I asked him whether he minded not using one and he said no.

“That was when I realised most guys don’t care and I slipped back into my old habits.”

Again, this is their informed choice and they are running a very low risk.  The risk for them would be higher if they had sex with an undiagnosed partner with minor symptoms – and there are far more of them.  Marquita is being responsible. 

Marquita’s symptoms have flared up a few times and she says she then avoids sex for six weeks.  See above – this is longer than necessary.

But she revealed: “Since being diagnosed, I have slept with eight men and nobody has ever come back and said I’ve given it to them. I have always given the men the opportunity to say no.  So what is the problem?

“For most guys, it seems that sex with me is worth the risk.”

Marquita, who says she has had 25 sexual partners, is dismissive of the problems herpes could cause if she gets pregnant.

There is an increased risk of miscarriage — and if she has a flare-up at the time of birth she would need a Caesarean to avoid a risk of the baby going blind.

This is incorrect.  There is no increased risk of miscarriage for women who catch the infection during pregnancy [recent statement by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology].  A Caesarean is only routine when the mother has been newly infected at term.  Most women with genital herpes give birth naturally even if there are symptoms at the time of birth because the baby is protected by antibodies that are passed from the mother while the foetus is still in the womb.  

 She said: “I don’t worry about that yet. If it turns out I can’t have kids, I’ll deal with it. There are other options — surrogate mums, fostering, adopting. I am not going to stress about it yet.”

Marquita now has a boyfriend who she has been seeing for three months. She claimed: “It doesn’t bother him — but we practise safe sex to protect him.”