[Question #3522] Does sterilization protect against HSV (or other STDs)?

37 months ago
I put this in the Herpes category, because that's what I'm primarily curious about.

So, I used to know a guy who was in a long term relationship with a woman who had genital HSV (I'm not sure whether it was HSV-1 or -2, it was in the early-mid 2000's, if that helps in guessing which was most prevalent at that time).

He always swore that he had never contracted the disease, and that his secret was that: 
1.  They always used a condom
2.  After sex, he would always sterilize his genitals by swabbing with alcohol and then washing with soap and water.

Now I know that using a condom significantly decreases your chance of contracting any STD, but I also hear that they are not 100% effective at preventing men from contracting herpes.

My question:
Does the alcohol swab after protected vaginal sex offer any additional protection from herpes (assuming the partner was HSV-positive)?

What about protection from other STD's (assuming of course that the partner was positive in the first place)?

Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
37 months ago
We have no science at all about whether using something topically on your penis (alcohol or soap and water) after sex will reduce the risk of transmission.  There are so many factors at play here - did he already have the infection and not know it, did she have HSV 1 or 2, was she shedding virus at the time they had sex, lots of things.  So we cannot know, in this particular case, if his methods were effective.  I would guess however that soap and water in particular MIGHT offer some protection against brand new infection if used immediately after intercourse.  The herpes virus is surrounded by a lipid layer and soap destroys the lipid layer causing the virus to fall apart and become unable to be infectious.  However, if the intercourse was prolonged, it may have been done too later in the process.  It could not offer protection against other STD particularly those that infect the urethra, like gonorrhea and chlamydia.