Above: Image from FLUX: “A Clean Exchange.”
ANON QUESTION: I enjoy your honesty and open discussion. I love barebacking! I know the risk of it and understand it’s consequences. How common are hep c and herpes and do cumdumps contract them?
Buddy, you probably already have herpes. Although I haven’t experienced an outbreak yet, I probably have herpes. If you’re sexually active, you probably have some type of herpes already, and if you’re regularly taking anonymous loads, you can bet on it.
Don’t freak out. That’s OK. Herpes (both types) may be the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. It’s so common that many people who don’t routinely take anonymous loads have it. It’s not a sign of irresponsibility, recklessness, sluttiness, or any other negative value judgment. It’s just a sign that you’re a sexually active adult living in the real world.
According to the World Health Organization, two-thirds of the general population under 50 years old has herpes simplex virus type 1, or oral herpes. When they released this data a few years ago (I covered the release in Plus), they also revealed that their data suggests herpes simplex type 1, or oral herpes, is one common cause of genital herpes, or herpes simplex virus type 2.
Both types are often asymptomatic — most people don’t know they have it, and never experience symptoms. Others may experience very mild symptoms which never go recognized as herpes at all. I could very well have had herpes for years (as I probably have) and mistook a bump or two as a zit or something. There’s no cure for herpes, but being such a mild and such a common infection, I don’t lose sleep over it.
I have HIV — another incurable infection that isn’t worth living in paralyzing fear over, given the amount of HIV treatment and prevention options we now have available in the United States — and I don’t lose sleep over it, not anymore. I fear cancer and getting gunned down by a lunatic spraying bullets, not these clear-headed realities of being a sexual gay man.
Now, on to Hepatitis C. Hep C is more common among HIV-positive guys, particularly those of us into fisting, which is why I get checked for it every time I go in to get routine, STI/STD testing, which is a minimum of every three months. Ideally, I go once a month if I’m having lots of sex, and you should adopt this frequency for yourself if you’re going to be a raw, piggy bottom.
Hep C, or HCV, isn’t statistically higher among men who have sex with men, according to Positively Aware. The only population with a higher statistic rate of HCV infection are those with HIV. Of all the people living with HCV in the United States (3.5 million), 25% of them have HIV.
The most common way Hep C is spread is through injection drugs and sharing needles, so try not to do that. I have a doctor friend in Seattle who tells me that Hep C is so associated with drug use that when someone tests positive for it, they assume. It’s easy for me (and countless others) to say, “Just don’t do injections drugs,” but as someone who knows fully the allure and reality of drugs and has my own rocky, quiet relationship with them in the past, I must at least encourage you to not share needles and try to always use a clean needle every time. There are needle exchange programs in cities across the United States worth looking into if you’re shooting up.
If you test positive for Hep C, keep in mind that the testing process is two-part. First, you take an HCV antibody test. If the antibody test is positive, you take a second HCV viral load test to confirm that you are chronically infected with HCV. Why do you need this second confirmation? Because 1 in 4 people clear the virus within six months of infection.
If you’re told, “You are positive for hepatitis C because you tested positive for the antibody test,” you should follow up with the question, “Are you sure? Did you confirm that antibody result with an HCV viral load?” If they didn’t do a viral load test, ask for one. Seriously.
You didn’t ask me about HIV, but I’m going to touch on it briefly. If you’re HIV-negative, get on PrEP. If people tell you that you can’t get on PrEP or if the cost seems too high, there are assistance programs that can help you. If you’re HIV-positive, take your meds regularly. If you’re near an LGBTQ center, go in and talk to someone. It’s worth the wait if there’s a wait, and worth the trip if it’s far.
Final bit: If you’re being a cumdump, all this is important information for you. You must routinely do ample, thorough research about HIV, PrEP, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and all other STIs. You have to know how to recognize symptoms. You have to know what terms like “undetectable” and “viral load” mean. Without this knowledge, you’re making uninformed choices about your sex life.
It’s OK to take anonymous loads — I love doing that — but you have to do it with full awareness of risks so that you can be prepared and ready when you catch something, because you will. I’m not chiding you, I am simply giving you homework: Learn everything you can about everything related to your sexual health so you can be the best cumdump ever.