How to Keep From Spreading Herpes to My Partner

If you have herpes and are afraid to tell your partner, you are not alone. About one out of every eight Americans between 14 and 49 has HSV2 genital herpes. Most of them don't even know they have the disease due to mild conditions. Further, more than half of Americans have HSV1, which causes cold sores. So, with so many infected adults, there's no reason to be ashamed. Just be honest and ask your partner for their compassion and understanding before you begin the conversation.

How to Protect Your Partner During an HSV2 Outbreak

When you take the appropriate precautions, you greatly reduce your partner's exposure to the herpes virus. Having genital herpes doesn't preclude you from enjoying an incredible sex life with your partner. In fact, using condoms reduces the risk of transmission by 50 percent. Some couples continue to use condoms throughout the relationships, while others decide to forego them and downplay the importance of HSV2 in their relationship, but this is an individual choice.

It's a good idea to avoid genital contact on any kind if you are having an outbreak of herpes. The virus is at its strongest and is very easy to inadvertently transmit at this time. Continue to avoid contact from the first warning signs, such as a tingling or burning sensation, until the last sores heal. Remember that sexual activity slows the healing process.

Herpes transmission increases when you have breaks in the skin, including thrush and small abrasions. Using lubricant helps to prevent abrasions due to sexual intercourse and is most effective near the beginning of the encounter. Involve your partner in the process of lubrication to make it less awkward for you both but avoid sex when you have thrush.

What About Sores in Other Areas?

HSV2 sores occur on the genital region, but can also break out on your thighs, buttocks and many other areas. That's why it's so important to prevent skin contact with your partner and the affected area, particularly during an outbreak.

If you get a cold sore, avoid kissing so that you don't give your partner the HSV1 virus. This includes oral sex that can spread the virus to your genital area.

Not all herpes sores are found in places covered when you use a latex condom. Unfortunately, the virus can be shed from area not visible by herpes sore. Here is what you can do to protect your partner.

  • Avoid sharing towels, toothbrushes or any other items that might put your partner at risk
  • Avoid oral, vaginal or anal sex during an outbreak.

Herpes Treatment

Taking oral antiviral treatment helps keep your outbreaks under control and protects your partner from getting herpes. Sometimes, a suppressive antiviral treatment with valacyclovir reduces the risk to your partner. You have to stay on the antiviral medicine forever. During an outbreak, you should definitely take it long enough to regain control, typically 6 to 12 months.

Living with herpes doesn't have to be a big deal. If your partner reacts in a loving way, telling him could make you a stronger couple. If he chooses to move on to another relationship, it's his loss.