Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Ashley Manta facetiously refers to it as “dropping the H-bomb” — telling new partners that she has herpes. She’s used to it now, but when she was first diagnosed nine years ago, it didn't feel so normal. She was convinced “no one would want to be with someone who has herpes.” Jenelle Marie Davis, founder of The STD Project, agrees. She says that talking to new partners about the diagnosis is “the biggest fear people have going forward. It’s not the physical symptoms people worry about, it’s how they’re going to date.”

But they do date, and like all mental hurdles that at first seem insurmountable, you too will figure out how to make the big reveal. Nearly one in six people aged 14 to 49 in the U.S. has HSV-2, the virus that most often causes genital herpes, so you’re far from alone in tackling this diagnosis. And you can get back out there. Ahead, here’s how.