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Woman afraid of intimacy because of STD

Ask Annie

Dear Annie: I am a 68-year-old woman who has been divorced for more than 30 years. I haven't been in an intimate relationship for the past 10.

Last year, I discovered that I have genital herpes. The doctor said I may have had it for years before experiencing symptoms. I was devastated. When I have an outbreak, I take medication that shortens the discomfort, and I decided not to have intimate contact anymore. I'm quite busy with my retirement lifestyle and very content.

Here's the problem: Through a friend, I recently met an interesting man my age. I don't want to tell him about my personal medical history, but I also don't want him to think I'm a prude. We went out casually once, and he has called since, but I have put him off. I can't decide whether I should see him again and whether I should tell him I have an STD and let him decide whether he wants a "friend without benefits." What do you suggest? - K.

Dear K.: It seems a shame to end your sex life because you fear transmitting an STD. There are ways to avoid that. And your future partner may be more understanding than you realize. Please contact the American Sexual Health Association (ashasexualhealth.org) for information on all STDs, including herpes, and for support in communicating with potential partners.

Dear Annie: How do you tell a doctor that his office is dirty? My physician's office is full of dust, cobwebs, smudged fingerprints and dirty sinks. It looks as if it hasn't been cleaned in years.

He is a good doctor and has helped me many times, but I can hardly walk into that office without gagging. What should I do? - Love the Doc, Not His Office

Dear Love the Doc: You have to tell him. All of that dirt means that equipment that needs to be sterile isn't, and who knows what germs you are breathing in during an exam? This puts your health at risk. Also, how many patients has he lost because of the condition of his office? And if your doctor cannot see the dirt surrounding him, he may have a vision problem that needs correcting, although it's more likely he either doesn't have a cleaning staff or they don't do a good job.

Does your doctor have an assistant or receptionist? Direct your complaint to that person. If there is no one else in his office, please have the courage to speak up during your next visit. Tell the doctor that his office could use a good cleaning, and suggest that his current cleaning service be replaced. If things don't change, report him to your local health department.

Dear Annie: My daughter had the same experience as the son of "Upset Dad." In seven years on the softball teams in middle and high school, she never missed a practice. Yet I can count on one hand the number of times that she played more than one inning in a game. Most of the time, she sat on the bench, while kids who habitually missed practice got to play all the time.

My daughter loved softball so much that she begged me not to say anything to the coach, and I respected her wishes until the day after her graduation, when I penned a polite but critical letter to the coach, athletic director and superintendent. Not one of them had the courtesy to reply.

I'm a teacher. The field is a coach's classroom. If I refused to call on students who came to class prepared, raised their hands and wanted to participate, I certainly would be dismissed. In school sports, all students who attend practices regularly, follow team rules and want to play should have an equal opportunity to do so. - English Teacher and One-Time Sports Mom

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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