Reducing Your Risk of Spreading or Getting Genital Herpes
[Reprinted with permission from DatingWithHerpes.org]
There are a number of things that we can do to reduce the risk of transmission to your partners, and by using these practices, many people have been successful in NOT spreading herpes to their partner(s). Some people who have HSV2 have NEVER spread it to a partner. However, there are no guarantees. Everyone has a different situation. And your PARTNER’S health and immune system is also a factor. But if you use some or all of these practices, your risk of transmitting the virus to your partner(s) might be much lower.
1) Have your partner(s) tested. Reducing the risk of transmission of herpes and other STD’s requires that both partners KNOW their status for herpes and other STD’s PRIOR to becoming intimately involved. Unless your partner has taken one of the newer, very reliable type-specific herpes blood tests at least 12-16 weeks AFTER their last intimate encounter, there is always the chance that they might have acquired the herpes virus prior to sleeping with you. This goes for other viruses as well. So if you have intimate relations prior to your partner being tested, and they later develop symptoms and test positive for herpes, you will NEVER KNOW if your partner got herpes from you or if they had it BEFORE you, but just didn’t know it. Remember, 25% of US Adults have genital herpes, but up to 90% of them DON’T KNOW IT. Asking your partner(s) to get tested prior to your getting involved may seem awkward, but unless you and your partner don’t care about spreading STD’s, it’s a very reasonable thing to ask someone to do. Frankly, now that herpes is so easy to diagnose via type-specific blood tests, everyone should be doing this. The medical profession will eventually catch up… but in the meantime, we need to ask our partners to get tested for herpes and other STD’s as soon as a physical relationship looks likely. Also, wouldn’t it be nice to find out that your partner is one of the 25% who already has herpes, so you don’t have to worry about giving them an STD that they ALREADY have? Testing is part of the solution. Let’s be pro-active on the testing front.
For a current list of reliable blood tests for herpes, from the American Society for Social Heath (ASHA), go to: http://www.ashastd.org/pdfs/HerpesBloodTestGuide.pdf
2) Condoms: These will only help prevent transmission if the area that they cover is the same as the area where you or your partner has outbreaks or asymptomatic shedding. In many cases, condoms do not cover the area where the outbreaks or shedding occurs. Condoms still may be effective as contraceptives.
3) Suppressive Therapy: In studies, Acyclovir and Valtrex (a derivative of Acyclovir/Zovirax) taken daily have been shown to greatly reduce the risk of transmission to a non-infected partner. In one study, taking Acyclovir daily as suppressive therapy was so effective, that the percent of days that patients were shedding the virus was reduced to less than 1%! So suppressive therapy along with the regular and proper use of condoms is highly effective in reducing your risk of transmitting herpes to a non-infected partner. Read about the latest research here – http://depts.washington.edu/herpes/art_treatment.htm
5) Self-Monitoring: Some people can *tell* that they might be having an HSV2 outbreak – because they feel a tingling or other sensation – even if it never turns into a sore or any other visible symptom. Many people feel things like this in advance of a real outbreak. Other people may feel things like this – but then the outbreak never happens. In any case, if you abstain from intimate contact – from the moment you start feeling some tingling or any other unusual sensation – whether or not it turns into an actual outbreak – then you are likely to significantly reduce your risk of transmission. There are no published studies about self-monitoring, so you just need to go by common sense.
6) Low-stress Lifestyle: Many believe that stress increases the occurrence of herpes outbreaks. Stress may also decrease your auto-immune defenses. So if you and your partner both avoid stress, you should theoretically lower your risk of having outbreaks and being potentially infectious – as well as lowering your risk of “catching” this or another virus from other people.
There are so many things that you can do to help lower the potential risk of transmitting HSV2 to your partner. Depending on your particular situation, your risk might be higher – or lower.
Bottom line – is that you CAN significantly reduce your risk of transmitting HSV2 to your partner, even when you are having no outbreaks. If you take all of these precautions, you might, in fact, be a safer partner than someone who has not been tested recently for STD’s and is taking no particular precautions. Just using a condom, for instance, does not guarantee against the spread of many STD’s, including herpes. Since most people have not taken an HSV-2 type specific blood test at least 12-16 weeks after their last sexual partner, they might possibly be carrying and spreading the HSV2 virus without their knowledge, and may display no particular symptoms.
The only difference between US and THEM (the general population) is that we KNOW what we have and we can do something about it. At least 1/4 of THEM are really part of US, but they just don’t know it. Asking our potential partners to get tested may seem awkward, but just think of the favor you will be doing for yourself and everyone else – if someone who has it, finally learns that they have it and can start doing something about it.
For more information, we recommend that you check out our Herpes Links and Information Page.