Two forms of herpes exist: one is the “good herpes” and the other the “bad herpes.” These subjective monikers reflect social perceptions associated with herpes. Unfortunately, these perceptions and the stigma they produce are not based on facts, and they cause unnecessary pain and suffering for people who have genital herpes. To set the facts straight, people should know the real difference between HSV1 and HSV2, between oral and genital herpes, and the causes and symptoms of each kind of infection.

Under a microscope, the HSV1 and HSV2 strains look nearly identical. They share approximately 50% of their DNA and 85% of their genetic material. While the percentage of DNA they share is relatively low when considering humans share over 98% of their DNA with chimps, how the DNA behaves and forms into genes is more important, because they share the major segments of DNA that are needed to contribute to biological functions – the genetic material.

That means HSV1 & HSV2 behave similarly, but from an evolutionary stand-point, they sort of diverged years ago when humans started having sex face to face. That’s why a lot of their DNA is different, despite their genetic make-up remaining strikingly similar. What’s important to understand from this is that the genes the strains share have a big impact on the viruses’ appearance and behavior, and in both the HSV1 and the HSV2 strains, the genetic material looks and behaves similarly.

How are HSV1 & HSV2 the same?

Both the herpes simplex type 1 and the herpes simplex type 2 viruses infect the body’s mucous membranes (usually the mouth or genitals, but there are also mucous membranes located in the nose, eyes, and ears). Once infected, they establish latency (lie dormant) in the nervous system.

When the viruses become reactivated due to physical or emotional stimuli, they replicate and then travel the nerve pathways to the surface of the skin – sometimes that results in a physical outbreak, other times, it results in viral shedding. That is why both strains can recur and then be transmitted to others even when there are no noticeable symptoms present.

Clinically, HSV1 & HSV2 present identically, meaning, you can’t differentiate between one strain of the virus or the other by the severity of the initial outbreak or how the lesions look alone. The physical symptoms of HSV1 & HSV2 are indistinguishable.

For both HSV1 & HSV2, it is thought that at least two-thirds of infected people experience no symptoms at all or symptoms that are too mild to notice. As a result, it’s estimated that as many as the same amount (two-thirds) of people are entirely unaware they are infected.

How are HSV1 and HSV2 different?

The primary difference between HSV1 & HSV2 is where the virus typically establishes latency in the body. HSV1 usually remains dormant in the nerve cells near the base of the neck, and from there, viral shedding and outbreaks tend to occur on the mouth or face. HSV2, on the other hand, usually establishes latency in the nerve cells near the base of the spine, and from there, it recurs in the genital area.

However, that difference is not absolute, and either strain can reside in either parts of the body while infecting oral or genital areas. Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware that HSV1 and HSV2 can reside in both locations (more than 30% of new genital herpes infections are the result of HSV1), and that is one of the primary contributors to the recent rise in genital HSV1 infections: the misconception that the strains are fundamentally different.

‘People don’t understand that you can have type 1 genitally or orally and that the two types are essentially the same virus,’ says Marshall Clover, manager of the National Herpes Hotline. ‘One type is associated with stigma, the other is ‘just a cold sore’ – our society has a euphemism for it so we don’t even have to acknowledge that it’s herpes.’

HSV1 Might be More Risky

Because of the euphemisms we’ve attached to HSV1, people assume that oral herpes is a mild infection, occasionally bothersome, but never dangerous. For most, that assumption is accurate. When it infects the lips, face, or genitals, HSV1 is often quite mild and more of a nuisance than anything else.

However, for some, HSV1 occurs in the eye, causing ocular herpes, and ocular herpes is a potentially serious infection that can lead to blindness. In rarer cases, HSV1 spreads to the brain, causing herpes encephalitis, and herpes encephalitis is a dangerous infection that can lead to death.

The range and potential severity of HSV1 infections has led some experts to view the virus as more risky than usually perceived. ‘This is here say, but I think type 1 is a more significant infection than type 2,’ says Spotswood Spruance, MD, an oral HSV specialist at the University of Utah. ‘Type 1, and the morbidity associated with it, is underestimated.’

HSV2 Still Poses Some Risks Too

Herpes simplex type 2 is the most frequent cause of neonatal herpes, a very uncommon, but dangerous infection in newborns.

HSV2, however, unlike HSV1, rarely causes other complications or spreads to different areas of the body outside of its original vicinity. Under most circumstances, it is not a major health threat.

Should I compare colds sores to genital herpes?

So, is the comparison accurate?

Since the primary difference between HSV1 and HSV2 lies in where the strain establishes itself in the nervous system, comparing the two infections can help partners understand an HSV infection while also alleviating some misconceptions.

There are some obvious differences between the two viruses when comparing location of infection, risk, and social perceptions, but the viruses themselves look and behave similarly, so an initial comparison can be quite helpful.

However, social perceptions of oral and genital herpes diverge widely. While people tend to dismiss oral herpes as merely “cold sores,” they generally perceive genital herpes as an altogether different matter. Because it is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), genital herpes is often considered as something bad, “unclean” and a cause for shame and embarrassment. This opinion is unwarranted, given that there is not much difference between HSV1 and HSV2, or between oral and genital herpes, apart from their common infection sites on the human body. The erroneous public perception concerning genital herpes needs to be corrected, so that persons with the disease will not be needlessly tormented by shame or embarrassment nor unfairly treated.


 

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How to tell the difference between hsv1 and hsv2 ?

How alike are HSV-1 and HSV-2? In this feature, we look at the latest scientific facts about the two types of herpes simplex virus, as well as social attitudes toward oral and genital herpes.

Is there a worse infection? Is HSV1 (commonly cold sores) and HSV2 (commonly genital herpes), virtually, the same thing? By comparing the infections, we can help answer those questions while also beginning to understand why there is a polarizing difference in the way society views oral herpes vs. genital herpes.

When many people first tell someone they have genital herpes, they start by comparing the infection to oral herpes, or cold sores. How apt is the comparison? In spite of scientific facts, the social stigma and emotional attitudes surrounding genital herpes can make it hard to compare it objectively with an oral infection that most people casually accept. Following the unspoken assumptions of our society, many people still believe there is a "good" herpes virus-HSV- 1, the usual cause of cold sores-and a "bad" herpes virus-HSV-2, the usual cause of genital herpes.

In this feature, we take a look at HSV- 1 and 2 to see how alike and different the two viral types really are. We asked leading researchers how the two compare in terms of severity, recurrences, and transmission rates. We asked how often each occurs outside its usual site of preference, and how each behaves in the genital area. We questioned how much immunity having one type orally or genitally provides against getting the second type.

In addition, we looked at the way our society views oral and genital herpes. What's behind the very different images the two types carry? And what can we do about it? In an interview, counselors at the National Herpes Hotline suggest ways to help replace judgmental social assumptions with a healthy attitude.

Under a microscope, HSV- 1 and 2 are virtually identical, sharing approximately 50% of their DNA. Both types infect the body's mucosal surfaces, usually the mouth or genitals, and then establish latency in the nervous system. For both types, at least two-thirds of infected people have no symptoms, or symptoms too mild to notice. However, both types can recur and spread even when no symptoms are present.

The primary difference between the two viral types is in where they typically establish latency in the body- their "site of preference." HSV-1 usually establishes latency in the trigeminal ganglion, a collection of nerve cells near the ear. From there, it tends to recur on the lower lip or face. HSV-2 usually sets up residence in the sacral ganglion at the base of the spine. From there, it recurs in the genital area.

Even this difference is not absolute either type can reside in either or both parts of the body and infect oral and/or genital areas. Unfortunately, many people aren't aware of this, which contributes both to the spread of type 1 and to the misperception that the two types are fundamentally different.

"People don't understand that you can have type 1 genitally or orally, that the two types are essentially the same virus,' says Marshall Clover, manager of the National Herpes Hotline." One type is associated with stigma, the other is "'just a cold sore"- our society has a euphemism for it so we don't even have to acknowledge that it's herpes.''

The common myth is that HSV-1 causes a mild infection that is occasionally bothersome, but never dangerous. The reality? HSV-1 is usually mild, especially when it infects the lips, face, or genitals. However, in some cases type 1 can recur spontaneously in the eye, causing ocular herpes, a potentially serious infection which can lead to blindness. In very rare cases HSV- 1 can spread spontaneously to the brain, causing herpes encephalitis, a dangerous infection that can lead to death. HSV-1 is also the usual cause of herpes whitlow, an infection on the finger, and "wrestler's herpes," (herpes gladiatorum) a herpes infection on the chest or face.

The range and potential severity of HSV-1 infections lead some experts to view the virus as more risky than usually perceived. "This is heresy, but I think type 1 is a more significant infection than type 2," says Spotswood Spruance, MD, an oral HSV specialist at the University of Utah. "Type 1, and the morbidity associated with it, are underestimated."

By comparison, HSV-2 is widely believed to be a painful, dangerous infection that affects only people with very active sex lives. The reality? Some 22% of adult Americans from all backgrounds, income levels, and ethnic groups have HSV-2. Like HSV-1, type 2 is usually mild-so mild that two- thirds of infected people don't even know they have it. Type 2 rarely causes complications or spreads to other parts of the body. It is the most common cause of neonatal herpes, a rare but dangerous infection in newborns; however, type 1 causes up to one-third of neonatal infections.

The two types do behave somewhat differently depending on whether they are residing in their site of preference-the mouth and face for HSV-1, and the genital area for HSV-2. But both types are quite common, and under most circumstances neither is a major health threat. That's one reason medical professionals tend to dismiss HSV -2 despite the emotional trauma a diagnosis can cause for a patient.

While HSV can be a frustrating and painful condition for some people, in general the virus is less a medical problem than a social problem. For most of us, genital herpes is no more dangerous than a cold sore.

How Many Outbreaks?
Just how much of a physical problem HSV poses for a person depends largely on three factors. The first is how well the person's immune system is able to control the infection.

Differences in immune response may be the main reason that some people are bothered by frequent cold sores or genital herpes outbreaks while others are not. It's also the reason that both HSV-1 and 2 can pose serious challenges for infants, who have a limited immune response; and for people with compromised immune systems, including people with cancer, AIDS, severe burns, and people taking immunosuppressant medications.

The second factor affecting outbreaks is how long a person has had the infection. Over time, recurrences of both HSV- 1 and 2 tend to decrease, for reasons that aren't entirely clear.

In the case of oral HSV-1, many of the approximately 100 million Americans who are infected acquired the virus when they were children. By the time they're adults, only some 5% of people are bothered enough to consider oral HSV-1 a medical problem, according to Spruance.

On the other hand, almost all of the approximately 40 million Americans infected with HSV-2 acquired the virus as teenagers or adults. In the first year, those who have recurring outbreaks experience an average of four to six episodes. Over time, as with oral infections, the number of outbreaks usually drops off.

A third factor influencing the frequency of HSV -1 and 2 outbreaks is whether the virus is established in its site of preference. While HSV can infect both genital and oral areas, both types cause milder infections when they are away from "home" territory. Outside their site of preference, both type 1 and 2 lose most of their punch.

For example, most people infected with HSV-1 in the genital area have few, if any, outbreaks after the initial episode, far fewer than is typical with either oral HSV-1 or genital HSV-2. While experts estimate that some 30% of genital herpes infections in the United States may be caused by HSV-1, only 2- 5% of recurring genital outbreaks are caused by HSV-1. Research conducted by Lawrence Corey, MD, and colleagues at the University of Washington in Seattle shows that genital HSV-2 recurs 10 times more often than genital HSV-1.

According to a study by Wald et al. (New England Journal of Medicine, 1995), among 110 women with genital herpes, the average number of recurrences per year for those with genital HSV-1 was zero. Other studies have shown an average of about one outbreak per year (Benedetti, Annals of Internal Medicine, 1994).

Similarly, HSV-2 infection in theoral area-outside its site of preference-very rarely causes problems. First of all, oral, HSV-2 infections are rare, for reasons discussed below. But even when an infection occurs, recurrent outbreaks are uncommon. In one study (Lafferty et al., New England Journal of Medicine, 1987), oral HSV-2 recurred an average of 0.01 times a year in newly infected people. "I've never convincingly seen an oral type 2 recurrence," says Spruance.

A possible fourth factor affecting recurrence rate is viral type. According to the Lafferty study, genital HSV-2 infections were the most frequently recurring herpes infections, followed by oral HSV-1, genital HSV-1, and last of all, oral HSV-2.

How Easily Spread?

As a number of readers have attested over the years, many people with genital herpes are at least as concerned about transmission-the likelihood of spreading the virus to a partner-as about their own health. On the other hand, few people with oral herpes, share this concern. Is this because one type is more contagious than the other?

The short answer is no. Both viral types are easily transmitted to their site of preference, and can also be spread to other sites. Both are most contagious during active outbreaks, but are often spread through viral shedding when there are no recognizable symptoms. According to Spruance, people with recurrent oral HSV-1 shed virus in their saliva about 5% of the time even when they show no symptoms. In the first year of infection, people with genital HSV-2 shed virus from the genital area about 6-10% of days when they show no symptoms, and less often over time. (Both of these figures reflect shedding as detected by viral culture.)

From here, however, the question of transmissibility gets more complicated. Acquisition of one type is more difficult-though certainly possible-if you already have the other type. This is because either type, contracted orally or genitally, causes the body to produce antibodies, some of which are active against both HSV-1 and 2. This acquired immune response gives some limited protection if the body encounters a second type. When a person with a prior HSV infection does contract the second type, the first episode tends to be less severe than when no prior antibodies are present.

On a practical level, this means oral HSV-1 is often the most easily acquired herpes infection. Usually the first herpes simplex virus that people encounter, oral HSV-1, is typically spread simply by the kind of social kiss that a relative gives a child. Because children have no prior infection with any HSV type, they have no immune defense against the virus.

By the time they're teenagers or young adults, about 50% of Americans have HSV-1 antibodies in their blood. By the time they are over age 50, some 80-90% of Americans have HSV-1 antibodies.

By comparison, almost all HSV-2 is encountered after childhood, when people become sexually active. Those who have a prior infection with HSV-1 have an acquired immune response that lowers - though certainly doesn't eliminate-the risk of acquiring HSV-2. According to one study (Mertz, Annals of Internal Medicine,1992), previous oral HSV-1 infection reduces the acquisition of subsequent HSV-2 infection by 40%.

A prior infection with oral HSV-1 lowers the risk of acquiring genital HSV-1 even further. Studies show that genital HSV-1 infections almost always occur in people who have no prior infection with HSV of either type (Corey, Annals of Internal Medicine, 1983).

In the absence of prior oral infection, however, HSV-1 spreads easily to the genital area, usually through oral sex. In some countries, such as Japan and parts of Great Britain, genital HSV-1 is as common as genital HSV- 2, or more common.

"Prevalence rates of genital HSV-1 differ based on the practice of oral sex and on the percentage of people who are HSV-1 positive from childhood," explains Anna Wald, MD researcher at the University of Washington at Seattle.

Finally, the question of immunity and HSV types is complicated by an additional issue. Some studies suggest that the ganglia themselves may acquire some immunity to HSV after they are exposed to one viral type.

In the laboratory, infection of ganglia with more than one virus is difficult, suggesting that it may be more difficult to acquire a second HSV type in a location where you already have HSV. A prior genital infection with HSV-1, for example, may give more protection against genital HSV-2 than a prior oral infection with HSV-1.

What does all this mean on a practical level? Let's look at some examples to find out. Say you have genital HSV-1 and your partner has genital HSV-2. If you have unprotected sex, there is a small but real risk that you will get HSV-2, resulting in more outbreaks and more shedding. "We have documented cases where a person acquires HSV-2 after a prior genital HSV- 1 infection," says Wald. "I don't think it happens often, but it does happen."

On the other hand, it's very unlikely that your partner will get genital HSV- 1 from you. "I've never seen a case of a person acquiring HSV-1 on top of HSV-2," says Wald. "It's possible, but it would be unusual."

What if your partner has genital HSV-2 and you perform oral sex on him or her? Will you get HSV- 2 in the mouth? Given the widespread practice of oral sex (some three-quarters of all adults practice it, according to The Social Organization of Sexuality, 1994) and the prevalence of genital HSV-2 infection, you might expect oral HSV-2 to be relatively common. It's not.

According to one study, almost 100% of recognizable HSV-2 infection is genital (Nahmias, Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases Supplement, 1990). One reason is that most adults are already infected with HSV-1 orally, which provides some immunity against infection with HSV 2. Another reason is that oral HSV-2 rarely reactivates, so even if an infection does exist, no one knows.

So far we've been talking about transmission of HSV-1 or 2 from its site of preference. What about transmission from another site? Say you acquire genital HSV-1 through oral sex. Can you spread the virus to a partner through genital sex?

The answer is yes, but probably not as easily as it was spread through oral sex. The main reason is that the virus reactivates and sheds less often outside its site of preference. Only about one quarter of people with genital HSV- 1 shed virus at all in the absence of symptoms, while 55% of people with HSV-2 do (Wald, New England Journal of Medicine, 1995). "Shedding data appear to parallel recurrence data, meaning that people who have a lot of recurrences also have a lot of shedding," says Wald.

While HSV- 1 can be spread from genitals to genitals, "we think it is spread more easily through oral sex because HSV-1 reactivates more frequently in the oral area," says Wald. However, she warns, "transmission of genital HSV-1 during asymptomatic shedding has been documented." In other words, genital HSV-1 can be spread through genital sex, even when there are no symptoms. "Good" Virus/ "Bad" Virus

If HSV infection is as easily transmitted from the mouth as from the genitals, then why do people take steps to prevent genital but not oral infection? Why don't we kiss through dental dams ?

"It's ironic, isn't it?" says Wald. "It's not about health, it's about social acceptability."

Scientists can tell us all day that the main difference between the two viral types is simply their site of preference-whether they typically occur above the waist or below. But the unspoken attitudes of our society send a different message. That's just the problem, social attitudes whisper. Below the waist is bad.

"People think of oral herpes as the "good" herpes and genital herpes as the "bad" kind," says Glover of the National Herpes Hotline. "It's partly that they don't understand the similarities between HSV-1 and 2. But it's also that good and bad is how our culture views sex and our bodies."

The inescapable fact is that HSV-1 is usually spread through contact with infected lips, while HSV-2 usually spread through contact with infected genitals. From a social point of view, the problem is not the disease; it's how you got it.

Whether we like it or not, the social prejudice against genital herpes, no matter which virus causes it, is a reality. "People have more trouble explaining to a new partner that they have genital herpes, even if it's HSV- 1, than if they have a cold sore," says Glover. "Just saying the word "genital" is like an anvil that pulls the sentence down".

Is this topic making you crazy? For people who have trouble dealing with social attitudes toward genital herpes, the blatant double standard society applies to oral herpes can be frustrating, to say the least.

"Talk to a wise friend," suggests Rebecca, a health communication specialist on the National Herpes Hotline. "Join a support group. Find Someone you respect and exchange ideas them. It's always reassuring to see that not everyone lives inside the walls our society builds around sexual issues and realities. "

It's also worth hoping that new research on the similarities between HSV-1 and 2, as well as increased public education about genital herpes, can help lower the level of misunderstanding about both types of the virus. Today, the greatest difference between HSV- 1 and 2 appears to be the way we think about them. Tomorrow, that may change....

 

Most people fear dating with herpes. There’s no one to blame for the possibility of the situation, with confessions, issues about the condition, or devastation occurring within any relationship. What many do not realize is that it’s not limited to sexual contact involving genitals, completely unaware of what oral herpes or the common cold sores can bring about. Here is the most popular questions to help give you much-needed peace of mind upon knowing the right information sitting at the back of your mind.

 

Q. Can I get herpes from potentially infected surfaces?

A. You may be wondering if you can become infected by using the same towel, toilet seat, wash cloth, or anything else a person who has herpes has previously used. Also, if you can get herpes by dipping in a bathtub or swimming pool where an infected person just took a dive. Despite the myths, no, you cannot get it from inanimate objects since the herpes virus tends to die quickly outside the human body, roughly about 10 seconds in dry conditions. However, the possibility of contracting herpes still lingers in terms of things intended to be put in the mouth, like drinking from the same drinking bottle and sipping from the same straw or eating from the same fork.

Q. I have oral herpes. When I don’t have a cold sore, is it OK to kiss my date?

A. Even without an outbreak or any of the visible symptoms present, oral herpes can still be transmitted through asymptomatic shedding of the virus. Most people don’t know they can give herpes to their date this way. Moreover, when oral sex is performed, it can be spread to the genitals. However, the use of protection and sexual pleasures without the presence of an outbreak can significantly bring down the risk and allow you to enjoy the moment.

Q. If a condom is used, can we have oral sex and not risk getting herpes?

A. It is advisable to wear condoms to drop the chances of getting herpes really low, and avoid the possibility of acquiring a stronger strain of the virus that will only make things worse. A condom may not be able to cover the entire genital area though, meaning herpes can still be transmitted, whether through oral sex or intercourse.

Q. I have genital herpes. Can it be transferred through oral sex?

A. Yes, it is possible. Generally, the risk of getting herpes from oral sex from a person with cold sores is higher than the other way around with a person who does not have oral herpes but has genital herpes.

More: Whatever form of sex you had. You must tell your partner what you just discovered for he or she deserves to know, in the best possible, and most mature way.

Q:  I am a woman, I have HSV-2. I am in contact with a man that has HSV-1(G). If we have sex with each other will we both end up with both viruses?

A: HSV-1 causes 5-10% of genital herpes outbreaks. HSV-1 isn’t too common genitally. The only way an individual could be certain s/he has genital HSV-1 is to have a
doctor take a viral swab of active herpes sores and send it to the lab. If you cause genital HSV-1 most of the outbreaks would come from HSV-2. Seem HSV-2 is typically
genital herpes.

HSV-1 is likely to spread orally. If you perform oral sex on him the chances are high that you will catch oral HSV-1. Seem you could come in direct oral contact with
HSV-1 by performing oral sex on an individual with genital HSV-1. If safe sex happens the chances are low that HSV-1 and HSV-2 will spread. It’s best to use a
lubricated latex condom. Avoid sex during outbreaks, if a burning itching or tingling feeling occurs.


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People are often surprised to learn how common genital herpes (HSV-2) is. And looking at the data, about 42 million Americans would be in for a more personal “surprise” if they got tested for it today.

For people with herpes, how to go on their life on dating area is an important thing. Most of them choose to join some herpes dating sites to meet more friends, even lover who have the same problem like them. According to statistic, Positive Singles is considered to be the No.1 herpes dating site from more than 1000 dating sites for people with herpes, HSV, HPV and HIV. Why? Why Positive Singles has the best recommendation?

Let's check out the reasons from a picture.

herpes dating sites

As the homepage for the site (above) declares, the site hosts 15,000 daily active members and 120,000 conversations per day. Having tried out both the free and paid account myself, I’ve also found that there is a large active community. I was surprised to find many people who matched my criteria in my area.

With a free membership, you can set up a profile, search members, receive messages, reply to messages, and add people to your “favorites” list. You can search people highly detailed criteria, but the one big downside is that you have to have a paid membership to narrow your results by STD. You can still visually scan the results for those with “HSV 1 or “HSV 2”, but the paid membership makes this a less time-consuming process.

While you can reply to messages you receive, you will also need a paid membership to send the first message to someone. The way around this is to “favorite” a member you like, which sends them a wink. Then they can respond to your wink with a message and get the conversation started (assuming they have a paid account! If not, you’re out of luck.).

As with any dating site, many people feel that the most serious candidates can be found on paid sites. It’s sometimes a sign that the person is more serious in their search. Either way, you can at least sign up to Positive Singles and see how you like it before you decide to fully subscribe.

Another feature you may appreciate are privacy settings, but to get the full benefits of invitation-only photo albums, you need a paid membership.

Here’s a screenshot showing the different parameters you can search. As you can see, not only are there options to filter by STD, but also location, physical appearance, type of relationship desired, religion, education, ethnicity and more. You can also search for keywords in their profiles (common interests?). A cool feature here is that you can also name and save your searches for future use.

However, this is the paid membership search feature. When you have a free account, you can only search by gender, age, and distance. You can’t even choose the STD you are searching for. This is just one of the several reasons I recommend the paid membership.

On Positive Singles, you have the benefit of privacy settings. You can set your photos to be viewable by all other members, or to be viewable only by your favorites. You can also have more than one photo album. You have the ability to create “private albums” that can only be seen by people you choose. That way, some photos can be public and others require special access. This is a feature that only paid members get to take advantage of.

 

Do Condoms Prevent Herpes? Not Really, But This Does

It’s commonly known that condoms reduce the risk of transmission of STIs like HIV by a large margin. This is probably why many people assume the same about condoms for genital herpes. Unfortunately, genital herpes is more tricky. Condoms don’t prevent herpes transmission as well as they prevent other STIs, but studies show they reduce the risk.

People are often reminded that condoms are 99% effective for safe sex. But this is misleading, because condoms achieve this for HIV and hepatitis, but not for herpes (or, for that matter, the human papilloma virus).

Why Don’t Condoms Prevent Herpes?

It’s possible to get herpes with a condom because genital herpes is a viral infection transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. Condoms just don’t necessarily cover all of the skin surface areas that may be affected. For example, the virus can affect areas such as the penile shaft that the condom doesn’t cover, vulva, thighs, buttocks, and other skin around the genitals or anogenital region.

Quick transmission facts:

The likelihood of passing genital herpes to a partner is highest during an outbreak (times when a sore is present). (Read the early warning signs of an outbreak.)
Skin sheds the virus without an outbreak a significant amount of the time. There will be no visible signs, but a partner can still be exposed to and contract the virus. This is called asymptomatic shedding. One study showed that this can be as frequent as approximately 20% of the time (1). For actual transmission rates during asymptomatic shedding, some sources suggest a 4-10% chance depending on gender of the infected party.
Condoms Reduce Herpes Risk by 30%

Although they aren’t that effective at preventing it, condoms do reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting herpes by about 30%, according to a 2009 study by E. Martin in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2).

“Although the magnitude of the protective effect was not as large as has been observed with other STIs, a 30 percent reduction in HSV-2 incidence can have a substantial benefit for individuals as well as a public health impact at the population level,” writes researcher Emily T. Martin, MPH, PhD, of Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the University of Washington, Seattle in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study specifically examined the transmission rates of HSV-2 in more than 5,000 people. It showed that subjects who used condoms 100% of the time had a 30% lower risk of infection. The 30% reduction in transmission rates was reasonably just as true for both male and female partners. So can you get herpes with a condom? Yes, but you’ll fare better than without one.

Valtrex and Condoms Reduce Risk More

A study done by the creators of Valtrex, an antiviral medication for the management of herpes outbreaks and transmission rates, also showed that condom use reduces exposure to the herpes simplex virus (3). According to their study, these are the rates of transmission per year of regular sex:

If partners avoid sex during outbreaks: 4% chance transmission from female to male; 8% male to female
If partners also use condoms or antiviral medication: 2% female to male; 4% per year male to female
If partners also use condoms and antiviral medications: 1% female to male; 2% male to female
CDC Advice for Safe Sex

The CDC website says, “The only way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.” They recommend sexually active people do so within a mutually monogamous long-term relationship with a tested partner whose results are clean, and using latex condoms correctly every time.

For those with herpes who don’t want to pass it to their uninfected partners, we would add the following: Ask your doctor about the following tips:

Avoid sex during outbreaks;
Use daily suppressive therapy, i.e. take Valtrex every day as prescribed by a doctor; and
Use condoms.
If trying to get pregnant, you may manage the risk without condoms with the use of prescription antivirals and avoiding outbreaks.
So can you get herpes with a condom? Do condoms prevent herpes? As you can see, they can reduce the risk, but not significantly enough to be relied upon entirely. Know your STD status and that of your partners, and be aware of your body and outbreaks if you do have HSV. Practice the safest sex possible. ( sex with herpes )


More information:

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A person could catch oral herpes from performing oral sex on a partner
with genital HSV-2. HSV-2 is usually genital herpes. HSV-2 is could
spread orally and/or genitally. Herpes could come to the surface of the
skin even if a person doesn't have a visual herpes outbreak. When
herpes is on the surface of the skin and there isn't a visual herpes
outbreak that is known as shedding. If a person without oral herpes
performs oral sex on a partner with genital HSV-2 the oral region of
the partner's mouth who is performing oral sex may come in direct
contact with HSV-2 orally. If a partner has genital HSV-1 (less common
type of genital herpes) and a person without oral herpes performs oral
sex on that person the partner performing oral sex will be likely to
catch oral HSV-1. HSV-1 is usually oral herpes. The partner performing
oral sex may come in direct contact with oral HSV-1 by performing oral
sex on a partner with genital HSV-1.

It Is not possible for a person to catch genital herpes from
performing oral sex. When a person performs oral sex the oral region of the person body (the mouth) comes In contact with a partner's genitals. It Is
possible to catch oral herpes by performing oral sex on a partner with
genital herpes. Performing oral sex Is oral to genital contact. In
order for a person to catch genital herpes that person almost always
must come In direct contact with herpes genitally.

You could catch genital herpes If a partner with oral herpes performs
oral sex on you. Genital herpes could spread by vaginal sex, receiving
oral sex or by anal sex. It Is not possible for a person to catch
genital herpes by "only performing oral sex". In very rare cases herpes
Is spread by sexual foreplay.