[Question #1617] lgbt herpes question

44 months ago
I am a gay woman in my 20s who recently started dating someone new. She told me that she has HSV 2 genital herpes and I'm wondering how to continue seeing her while still minimizing my chance of infection. I was told that if I avoided having oral sex or genital to genital contact with her right before or during outbreaks that this would, practically speaking, make my chances of contracting the disease close to zero. Is this true? Even if I don't use dental dams/other barriers? I've also heard that during outbreaks it is best to avoid any oral/genital contact, but not sure if that is an absolute rule or if you can have sex during these times if you use dental dams and avoid areas where there are lesions? There's a lot of information out there about preventing herpes transmission in heterosexual couples, but I have seen very little about lesbians.  Thanks!
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
44 months ago
I wouldn't say that avoiding sex around outbreaks is going to prevent you from getting herpes from this partner.  Yes, during outbreaks you should avoid sex and in between outbreaks, it would be good use dental dams for giving oral sex and some barrier if doing genital to genital rubbing and using condoms on sex toys if you are using them.  And she should be on daily antiviral therapy to reduce the frequency of asymptomatic shedding and the frequency of recurrences.  There isn't much literature on HSV 2 transmission between female partners and it's a bit harder to study, given the wider range of sexual activities.  It's great that she told you -have you been tested to see if you might be infected and not know it?  If not, that would be a good idea - 80% of those infected with HSV 2 don't know they have it.  The biggest problem here is that people with HSV 2 give off virus between outbreaks with no symptoms.  Most transmission of HSV 2 occurs when the infected person is not showing any symptoms.

Terri
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44 months ago
Thanks Terri! Yeah, I'm definitely going to go get tested to see if maybe I  have it anyway and it is just asymptomatic. If I do in fact have herpes but just havent had symptoms, then sex with another herpes positive person has no concrete negative consequences, right? As in, if we both have HSV 2, but she has lesions/physical symptoms and I don't, I'm not going to get "worse" herpes than I already have by having unprotected sex with her, since the disease has already shown up in my body?

Also, you said that it's best to use dental dams when giving oral sex to someone with HSV 2. Are dental dams/barriers as essential when receiving oral sex? The woman  I am seeing seemed to think that the risk was significantly lower if the infected person is on the giving side and the noninfected person is on the receiving end--but that may not be true. 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
44 months ago
That is absolutely correct. If you are both infected, you have no worries in terms of whatever you would like to do with sex.
If your partner has only HSV 2 genitally, there is absolutely no risk in her giving you oral sex.  The virus stays in the nerve group in which it was initially found - genitally for.  So I think you might just be in luck!

Terri
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44 months ago
Thanks. What do you mean by "only HSV 2 genitally?" I thought that it only appeared genitally. But could it also appear orally? And if so, would that then make it too risky to receive oral sex from someone with the virus? Appreciate your taking all my questions!
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
44 months ago
Some people (not very many) acquire HSV 2 both genitally and orally and she would know if she had oral lesions at the same time she acquired it genitally.  Just ask.  If someone has HSV 2 orally, it recurs very infrequently and sheds very infrequently.  So that's why I said what I said - I don't think you should have worries here.

Terri
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