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STD puts strain on dating life

Q: I work for a company that employs a few hundred people. Like any workplace, gossip runs aplenty. My problem is that I have an STD, and while no one at work knows, and I would never date someone from work, I am finding that even individuals I meet online somehow know someone who works with me.

I've gone out of my way to try and date people from neighboring communities to avoid this problem, to no avail. I am paralyzed by the notion that if I begin dating someone and it doesn't work out, they will tell my co-workers about my STD. Once one person at my workplace finds out, they all will. How do I overcome this paralysis? Buffalo is too small a town. I would like to think that after a relationship ends the gentleman would respect my privacy, but that is just not a reality. Help!

-- N.B., Clarence

A: Dating with an STD can create added anxiety to the already stressful act of dating itself.

There is still a stigma attached to people with STDs in our society, and many sufferers of incurable diseases experience a wide range of emotional reactions to their diagnosis.

Statistics indicate, however, that one out of every five people living in America has some form of an STD, with genital herpes being the most common -- affecting more than 40 million people. So you are not alone, and you are most certainly deserving of respectful love.

Buffalo is a very "small world" kind of town, but don't be so quick to assume that anyone you date is ready to air your business the minute you stop seeing each other. First of all, the discussion of STDs or any sort of sexual-related conversation should not be occurring at all on the first few dates. Give yourself some time to get to know the person, decide whether you want to move forward with the relationship, and make sure the person is worth trusting before you become intimate and disclose your personal information.

Most people are not malicious and would not try to hurt you by sharing your information with others simply because the relationship ends. I also find it difficult to imagine that every person you date is close enough with any of your co-workers to actually speak to them often enough to warrant conversations about private matters. Believe it or not, most people are reserved in sharing details about their personal lives, even with their friends and family.

The fact is, you have this condition that (I assume) is currently incurable, and if you don't try to overcome your fears you will have little luck in finding love.

If the idea of dating people in Buffalo is still too scary for you, perhaps try broadening the geographical area in which you're looking. Rochester, Fredonia or even over the border in Canada can offer alternatives that aren't far away, as long as you're willing to meet half way.

But if the idea of disclosing your STD regardless of where the person is from is what's actually frightening you, looking outside of Buffalo will be no help. You have to get comfortable with yourself, love yourself, and find the confidence in knowing that you're a good person who deserves love.

Some people might react negatively, and some will accept it, but it's your job to be informed and able to educate your dates about your disease and how you can prevent spreading it; if you have facts to share with your date, he will be more comfortable and open-minded.

Another option to consider if you're still uncomfortable with the idea of dating are the online dating sites for people with STDs, but I don't think it's necessary for people with STDs to limit themselves in such a way.

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Patti Novak owns Buffalo Niagara Introductions (www.buffaloniagaraintro.com). E-mail questions to queencitymatchmaker@gmail.com and include your initials and hometown.

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