Your Dating Life Is Not Over
If youve recently found out that you have genital herpes, its easy to assume that your dating life is over.
This is a normal, common reaction. Finding out you have a sexually transmitted infection isnt an enjoyable experience, and its completely normal to assume that catching herpes will mean the end of your sexual and romantic life.
The reality, however, is that genital herpes isnt as big of a deal as you think.
First, genital herpes doesnt affect everyone the same way. Many people with genital HSV-1 or HSV-2 have are asymptomatic, or exhibit very mild symptoms that are either mistaken for other skin conditions or go completely unnoticed. Other people only occasionally deal with outbreaks, and some people can get several outbreaks a year.
Our guide to what you can expect from your herpes outbreak frequency goes through every question you might have about it.
Second, even if you do experience herpes outbreaks, try to remember that theyre temporary. Herpes outbreaks can happen frequently or infrequently, depending on the type of virus you have, your immune system and other factors every person is different.
However, the physical symptoms of a herpes outbreak dont stick around for long. Usually, your body will repel the virus and heal within two to three weeks, giving you months in between each outbreak for you to enjoy a normal dating life.
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Genital Herpes: How Can You Prevent The Spread Of Herpes In Sexual Relationships
Herpes viruses are most likely to be transmitted during an outbreak, so it’s better to not have sex during this time. Herpes can also be passed on to others in symptom-free phases, though. This risk can be reduced considerably by using condoms.
If you have genital herpes, there are some things you can do on your own to protect your partner from infection. The main things are
- not having sex during an outbreak,
- using condoms during symptom-free phases, and
- talking openly with your partner about the disease.
Preventive treatment with antiviral medication may be an option for people who have genital herpes very frequently. This medication inhibits the activity of the virus, thereby lowering the risk of infecting partners.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Getting Genital Herpes
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting genital herpes:
- Be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected with an STD
- Using latex condoms the right way every time you have sex.
Be aware that not all herpes sores occur in areas that are covered by a latex condom. Also, herpes virus can be released from areas of the skin that do not have a visible herpes sore. For these reasons, condoms may not fully protect you from getting herpes.
If you are in a relationship with a person known to have genital herpes, you can lower your risk of getting genital herpes if:
- Your partner takes an anti-herpes medication every day. This is something your partner should discuss with his or her doctor.
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How High Is The Risk Of Spreading Herpes
The risk of spreading herpes depends on a number of factors, some of which are within your control:
- – Length of time you have been infected with the herpes virus
- – Whether your partner is a man or a woman
- – How frequently you use condoms during sex
- – Whether you take antiviral medication
Research shows that in couples where one partner had genital herpes and condoms were only used during outbreaks, the other partner became infected within one year in up to 10% of couples.
The risk drops significantly with additional precautions like consistent condom and antiviral medical use. One large study reported that only 1.9% of susceptible partners became infected with clinically symptomatic HSV-2 when given the antiviral valacyclovir as a precautionary treatment.
I Had Lesions When I Was Evaluated But My Culture Was Negative Does This Mean That I Dont Have Herpes
Not necessarily. Although lesions can be caused by something other than herpes, false negative herpes tests can occur if the samples are not taken appropriately, if there is a long transport time between the clinic and the laboratory, or if cultures were taken late in the course of the lesions. Lesions that occur early in the course of a herpes outbreak are much more likely to have positive cultures than cultures taken after the lesions crust over.
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What Does A Test Involve
If you have sores , your doctor or nurse will examine your body and use a cotton swab to collect a sample from the sores. The swab test will tell you if you have genital herpes and if it is herpes simplex virus type 1 or type 2.
You may be offered a blood test but this is usually not necessary.
You may choose to test for other STIs or BBVs at the same time as testing for genital herpes.
Sexual Health Victoria provides expert, confidential STI and BBV testing to Victorians. We also provide expert information, healthcare and support on a range of reproductive and sexual health matters. For more information on SHV clinical services, see our clinics or you can book an appointment online.
Can Genital Herpes Come Back
Yes. Genital herpes symptoms can come and go, but the virus stays inside your body even after all signs of the infection have gone away. The virus becomes “active” from time to time, leading to an outbreak. Some people have outbreaks only once or twice. Other people may have four or five outbreaks within a year. Over time, the outbreaks usually happen less often and are less severe.
Experts do not know what causes the virus to become active. Some women say the virus comes back when they are sick, under stress, out in the sun, or during their period.
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How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Most people who have genital herpes dont know because they have either no symptoms or such mild infrequent symptoms, it goes unrecognised.
Until recently, a diagnosis could only be made by clinical symptoms and swabs from an active herpes episode. However, there are commercially available blood tests becoming available which can distinguish between herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 antibodies. The time taken to develop antibodies is usually two to six weeks after infection, but can be up to six months. It is also important to know that false positives and false negatives are common in these tests.
Because of the limitations of a blood test to diagnose herpes, it is recommended you discuss the implications of the test with someone who has experience with them. It is important that the test can distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies.
If you think you might be showing signs of the infection, consult your doctor.
How To Reduce The Risk Of Spreading Herpes
There are ways to lower the risk of spreading HSV-1 to your partner. If you have an active outbreak, avoid letting the affected area touch your partners skin. Concerned about transmitting the virus when no symptoms are present? Using a protective barrier like a condom or dental dam can reduce the risk.
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Before You Think About Sex Focus On Treating Your Herpes
While herpes doesnt need to limit your sexual or romantic life in the long term, its best to take a break from sexual activity once you first find out that youre infected.
Most people with an active herpes infection find out about their status during the initial outbreak of the virus. Initial herpes outbreaks usually happen two to three weeks after you become infected with the virus, but may not appear until weeks, months or even years after initial exposure.
During an initial outbreak, the virus undergoes a replication process in your body, taking over cells and spreading at a rapid pace.
Genital herpes eventually spreads to the spinal ganglia, where it stays as a dormant virus in the body. Oral herpes settles in the ganglia behind the cheek bone. It usually takes two to three weeks for herpes to set up camp in your body before an initial outbreak.
During an initial outbreak, youll notice a variety of symptoms, from flu-like fatigue and muscular aching to a fever. The most obvious sign of a herpes infection is the development of sores on the lips or on the genitals, groin, legs and buttocks.
Our guide to the signs and symptoms of a genital herpes outbreak goes into more detail about the symptoms youll notice during an initial outbreak. It also includes symptoms that are shared with the oral form of the virus, making it a useful resource for either type of infection.
Focus on treating the outbreak once its healed, you can refocus on your sex life.
What To Say When Your Partner Tells You They Got Herpes From You
Generally, our first outbreak is so bad and were in so much pain that we think to ourselves that wed never want to give our partner herpes. I know this was how I felt. I was like, Id never ever want to put someone through the physical pain or the emotional pain I just went through. I can remember telling my doctor that I was never going to date again or have sex for that matter. I felt like I was going to just shrivel up and collect cobwebs.
I know this sounds familiar. Obviously, I got past this cobweb part and put myself out there, dated, and dated some more and got married. And trust me, you will also.
When it comes to dating and having sex you have two options. To tell your partner you have herpes or not tell them. Clearly, we know what the right and the ethical decision are, but its not always that easy. The stigma can put so much fear in our heads that we just freeze and forget to mention that we have herpes or just decide that what our partner doesnt know wont hurt them. My personal opinion and where I draw a hard line is it is important to disclose for the reasons being that your partner is always at risk of getting herpes and at the end of the day its just the right thing to do. I talk about not disclosing here and here if you want to read more.
So back to what to do if you give your partner herpes. I want to break it down into 3 sections if youve disclosed, if youve not disclosed and you didnt know.
If youve disclosed:
If youve not disclosed:
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Is It Okay To Break Up With Someone Because They Have Herpes
Yes, of course it is. Its okay to break up with someone for any reason. You can break up with someone because their mother is awful or because of the weird way they eat ice cream or because they have different job and family aspirations than you. Youve got free will here.
Consider that you might be walking away from a relationship thats worth the added complication of herpes. People are not defined by their sexually transmitted infections and neither are relationships. If what you have with that person is something special, then letting herpes end it is something youll regret.
The reason: its just so incredibly possible to be dating, or living with, or married to someone who has herpes. For the vast majority of the days in your lives, herpes will be a non-issue.
Dont run scared because of the stigma of herpes.
Chances are, attitudes about herpes will change in the coming decades. As a kid, I remember reading in the Bible about the way lepers were treated and thinking how foolish it was that these people were marginalized because they were believed to be unclean and contagious. Are the conditions we stigmatize today much different?
If you do decide to go separate ways because of herpes, my suggestion is to be as respectful as possible.
What does that mean? Dont ghost her. You think shes never seen a guy drop off the planet before after she very responsibly told you this incredibly intimate situation? Be one of the good guys, talk to her.
How Do People Get Genital Herpes
People can get infected with genital herpes when:
- They receive oral sex from a partner who has oral herpes .
- They touch a herpes sore and then touch their own genitals.
- Their genitals touch the skin in the genital area of someone who is infected .
Genital herpes can spread even if there are no sores because the virus is still in the body. The virus sometimes âshedsâ in the skin near the genitals. When the virus is shedding, it can infect another person.
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When Are The Most Contagious Times
The herpes virus is always contagious, even when no symptoms exist. However, the risk of transmission increases significantly when wet, open sores and blisters are present in the midst of an outbreak.
From the time that you begin to feel the itching or burning sensation of developing herpes sores, until your outbreak has completely scabbed and healed, consider the virus highly contagious for your partner.
If youre the susceptible partner in the relationship and want to learn how to not get cold sores from your partner, be sure to abstain from intimate contact until each herpes outbreak has cleared.
Should You Get Tested
Its a good idea for the partners of people with genital herpes to have a blood test for herpes antibodies. This can help them to decide whether to use antiviral medication as protection, for example. Both partners may already have the same virus type. Then theres no reason to take medication to protect each other.
If one of the partners has HSV-1 or cold sores and the other one has HSV-2 or genital herpes, they could infect one another with the other virus. If one partner has herpes viruses in their body and the other doesnt, condoms are one way to prevent infection.
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The Right Person Wont Reject You
The truth is, some people will reject you when they find out you have herpes. To quote a herpes support forum poster, dating with herpes can be stressful. However, if you do these things, then being diagnosed with herpes is not the end of the world:
- Talk about your diagnosis early
- Have information handy so that you can talk honestly about the actual risks and concerns of the disease
- Be willing to do what you can to reduce the chance you will spread herpes to your partner
Numerous people with genital and oral herpes are open about disclosing their condition. Most of them have active, happy dating and sexual lives. The truth is, its so hard to meet the right person that dating with herpes makes it only the tiniest bit harder. Life after herpes doesnt mean life without love.
Im Pregnant How Could Genital Herpes Affect My Baby
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, it is very important for you to go to prenatal care visits. Tell your doctor if you have ever had symptoms of, or have been diagnosed with, genital herpes. Also tell your doctor if you have ever been exposed to genital herpes. There is some research that suggests that genital herpes infection may lead to miscarriage, or could make it more likely for you to deliver your baby too early.
Herpes infection can be passed from you to your unborn child before birth but is more commonly passed to your infant during delivery. This can lead to a potentially deadly infection in your baby . It is important that you avoid getting herpes during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, you may be offered anti-herpes medicine towards the end of your pregnancy. This medicine may reduce your risk of having signs or symptoms of genital herpes at the time of delivery. At the time of delivery, your doctor should carefully examine you for herpes sores. If you have herpes symptoms at delivery, a C-section is usually performed.
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Is Genital Herpes Infection Related To Hiv
Herpes and HIV are caused by different viruses. But patients infected with these viruses are more likely to transmit either disease to their sexual partners. Patients with herpes are more vulnerable to HIV infection. People newly diagnosed with herpes should be tested for HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections.
Patients who are infected with both herpes and HIV also may have a higher concentration of HIV viruses in their body because of the interaction between the herpes virus and the HIV virus. When HIV damages a persons immune system, the person may be more likely to shed herpes simplex virus asymptomatically.
What You Need To Know
- Fifty percent to 80 percent of U.S. adults have oral herpes.
- Oral herpes can be spread through intimate contact with someone who is infected.
- Oral herpes can be difficult to diagnose. Often confused with many other infections, it can only be confirmed with a virus culture called PCR, blood test or biopsy. PCR is the preferred test for diagnosing herpes infections.
- The best treatment for oral herpes is antiviral oral medication. Symptomatic treatment may include antiviral ointment, over-the-counter topical anesthetics or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents.
Whether you call it a cold sore or a fever blister, oral herpes is a common infection of the mouth area that is caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 . Fifty percent to 80 percent of U.S. adults have oral herpes. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 90 percent of adults have been exposed to the virus by age 50.
Once infected, a person will have herpes simplex virus for the rest of his or her life. When inactive, the virus lies dormant in a group of nerve cells. While some people never develop any symptoms from the virus, others will have periodic outbreaks of infections.
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