Contracting an incurable STD can be a burden, and it may seem like it’s the end of your sex life. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Despite the stigma, herpes simplex virus (also known as HSV-1 and HSV-2) is more common than you might think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one in six people between ages 14 and 49 have genital herpes. That is a lot of people living with HSV. So, it’s time to stop the stigma and bust some common myths about living with herpes.
Myth #1 Herpes Will Ruin My Sex Life
While having herpes may mean that you make some adjustments, it does not mean that you’ll never have sex again. However, herpes comes with responsibility. You must tell any intimate partner that you have herpes and that they understand the risks involved. Explain how to practice safe sex and what medications you are taking to control the virus and your symptoms. While this may not sound romantic, being open and honest with your partner builds trust and increases intimacy.
Myth #2 Oral Herpes Can’t Cause Genital Herpes
There are two types of herpes, HSV-1 and HSV-2. It’s commonly assumed that HSV-1, which causes cold sores, cannot cause genital herpes. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. While the risk of infection is lower when no cold sore is present, it’s still possible to spread the virus even when there are no visible sores.
Myth #3 Condoms Provide Complete Protection
While condoms provide some protection from HSV, along with many other STDs, they are not entirely safe. Herpes is spread by skin to skin contact. So, you can still infect your partner when using a condom, because they don’t eliminate all genital contact.
Myth #4 I Can’t Have Herpes if We Didn’t Have Sex
Sexual contact is the primary way herpes is contracted, but it’s not the only way the virus can be spread. As discussed in Myth #2, herpes is spread through skin to skin contact. So, any physical contact of the genitals, or the mouth if someone has oral herpes, can spread the virus. This includes intimate touching, oral sex and dry humping if the skin is exposed.
Myth #4 Since There is No Cure for Herpes, There’s Nothing I Can Do to Treat It
It can be frustrating that there is no cure for herpes (yet!). Luckily it doesn’t mean you’re out of options for managing the virus. There are oral medications that can be taken to reduce the severity and length of herpes outbreaks. These antiviral medications can also reduce the chance of transmitting the virus.
Myth #6 If I Have Herpes, My Partner Will Too
If you are careful, there is no reason that your partner can’t remain virus-free. Communicate with your partner. Use condoms or other barrier methods to minimize skin-to-skin genital contact. And avoid sexual activity while you are experiencing a breakout. Herpes is most contagious during a breakout, so avoid sex until all scabs and sores have healed.
A herpes diagnosis will mean making some changes. But you can still lead a normal life — including a satisfying and active sex life.