Safe Sex with Herpes
Take precautions to protect against transmission
The cold sore and genital herpes virus is contagious when it is active on the skin and is generally spread by direct skin-to-skin contact. There is a risk of the virus spreading when the first signs of tingling or itching begin (prodrome), as well as when no sores or blisters are visible.
You can have a relationship without spreading or contracting herpes
Some couples have reported no transmission of the virus even though they have been in a sexual relationship for many years. This is put down to restraint during outbreaks or very particular avoidance of the blisters during sex.
If you care about your partner and want to have an intimate relationship with her or him, herpes does not have to stand in the way. Couples deal successfully with herpes all the time. In most cases, it is only a minor inconvenience.
Herpes often brings about some changes in a couple's sex life, such as abstaining from sex during outbreaks. For most people with herpes, this occurs only a few times a year. Ask your partner how often he or she has outbreaks so you'll have some idea of what to expect.
Between outbreaks, you may wish to use condoms to reduce the risk of infection
Condoms offer the best protection against other STDs and STIs as well, which is important in a new relationship. Since herpes does not pose a serious health risk, some couples choose not to use condoms in a long-term relationship.
Condoms should definitely be used if engaging in causal sex but they are not always 100% protection. Also, new wool condoms have a woven texture through which this incredibly small virus can migrate.
Facts about using condoms to prevent herpes transmission:
- The herpes virus does not pass through latex condoms
- When properly used latex condoms are likely to reduce your risk of spreading or getting herpes, however even the best condoms do not guarantee total safety.
- When herpes sores occur in places not covered by a condom the condom is of little help, if any.
- Condoms and foams should not be relied upon when herpes sores or symptoms are present.
- Condoms do not provide 100 percent protection because a lesion may be found which the condom did not cover. Used consistently, however, condoms are one of the best available forms of prevention.
Having a healthy, happy relationship regardless of herpes
You and your partner will need to have open, honest communication about herpes so you can work together to prevent transmission. Your partner will need to feel comfortable telling you when he or she feels an outbreak coming on. Your relationship may benefit as you talk and establish trust.
On the other hand, if you aren't sure about the relationship, or you are uncomfortable with the risk, consider delaying intimacy for a while. Get to know your partner better, and give yourself time to adjust to the idea of herpes. There is no need to rush into a decision.
Keep in mind that all relationships face challenges, many far tougher than herpes. Good relationships stand or fall on far more important issues -- including communication, respect, and trust.
Safer Sex Practices that may help minimize the risk
- Practice non-coital sex (sexual intimacy without penetration) before you are ready to take the relationship further. Use your imagination, there are all kinds of ways to have fun! Just make sure to avoid touching or kissing the affected area when there is any sign of an outbreak (including itching or tingling).
- Use barriers, male and/or female condoms (dental dams).
- Chemoprophylaxis - use a lubricant with nonoxynol, proven to have some virucidal activity. Some people may be sensitive, causing them inflammation, rash or sores. In such cases it might increase likelihood of transmission - so definitely do not use in this case!
- Use a lubricant. This will decrease friction and make the viral particles less likely to adhere to new locations.
- Wash thoroughly afterwards (not the next morning), soap and water will help to remove the virus at the skin's surface, washing with diluted hydrogen peroxide or diluted chlorine bleach should also knock-out the virus.
- Take an antiviral or herbal remedy. The availability of antigen specific transfer factor, immune support (with andrographis) and other immuno-helpers like beta glucan ushers in a new age of prevention.
- Be mindful of contact with the affected area to compromised skin such as cuts, abrasions and other skin conditions that could allow the virus to enter. The virus is more efficient at transmission if there is an opening in the skin.
- Be very mindful and serious about prevention. Practice safer sex methods without exceptions - slipping up on your protocols just once could be a potential problem.
Where to Now?
Ask questions and get support right now in the Herpes Support Forum