In 1980, when Dr. Ruth's New York radio show debuted, herpes has just hit the headlines. When the show went live a year later, many of the questions people asked her were about this surging sexually transmitted disease. A short while later, AIDS was making headlines and herpes was relegated to the media back burner. But while there's no denying that AIDS is a much more serious STD, herpes has done its share of damage and today it is estimated that nearly 60 million Americans are infected with this disease. What's more, there are over one million newly diagnosed cases of herpes each year. This book is not only for people who have just discovered they have herpes, but also for the millions of Americans who are living with herpes and want a game plan for talking about their disease with fellow herpes sufferers, loved ones, and potential lovers. Structured throughout the book, in addition to Dr. Ruth's no-nonsense advice, are quotes from people who are living with herpes that Dr. Ruth interviewed at length for this book. Each chapter concludes with a list of helpful pointers or highlights summarizing the main points discussed within that chapter.
Dr. Ruth deals with the basics of herpes first - what it is, what kinds of herpes there are (HSV-1, which is responsible for cold sores, and HSV-2 which is responsible for genital herpes), how herpes can be transmitted, and walks you through the stages of infection (initial outbreak, latency period, and subsequent outbreaks). What makes herpes so transmittable is that 90% who are carrying the virus aren't even aware they are carrying it. Finally, Dr. Ruth explains how to prevent herpes transmission and the various kinds of herpes therapy available.
Subsequent chapters offer helpful pointers on how to come to grips with herpes emotionally, and how to learn to take charge of your treatment, which can be difficult when faced with apathetic or misinformed doctors and a wealth of bogus or misleading information that people believe about herpes and herpes transmission.
The centerpiece chapter of the book is "The Talk" in which Dr. Ruth walks you through the various hypothetical situations you are likely to encounter when you tell someone you have herpes (sympathy, confusion, anger, denial) and how to deal with each emotion by giving whomever you're talking to the appropriate kind of information they will need to deal with the news (herpes is contagious and incurable but not life threatening, condoms reduce but do not entirely eliminate the risk of transmission, etc.). Peppered throughout this chapter (as they are throughout the book) are quotes from people that Dr. Ruth interviewed for this book that have herpes and in this instance have actually had "the talk" themselves. These quotes offer a running commentary throughout the book that allow readers to balance the advice Dr. Ruth offers vs. how the situation actually plays out in real life (sometimes Dr. Ruth's advice plays out exactly as she predicts, but in some cases, her advice doesn't offer much help or solace, or actually improve the situation, and she is quick to point these inconsistencies out).
Because this is a Dr. Ruth book, it wouldn't be complete without information on how to maintain a normal and active sex life while living with herpes. With today's suppressive therapies and medication, one can substantially reduce the chance of transmitting herpes to another person. Support groups also offer the opportunity to meet fellow people with herpes as well as offering a safe environment with which to meet new people to date.
In addition to offering specific advice on how to deal with herpes when talking within specific groups and in specific situations (how to talk to your children about herpes, and how to talk about the disease if you're a senior, or gay), Dr. Ruth concludes the book with a lengthy chapter on additional STDs and explains how each one is caused or transmitted, and what you can do to protect yourself against each disease. Two helpful appendixes can be found at the back of the book, listing where to find a support group near you, as well as listing websites that offer supplemental information to what's listed in the book.