[Question #50] Long-time Genital Herpes sufferer, may have given it to my boyfriend last night!

40 months ago

Hello Dr. Handsfield,

I am a woman who has had genital herpes since the age of 22, and I am now 53 and past menopause.
My boyfriend is a long time friend, with whom I have tried to have relationships 3-times in the past, but it never worked out. I am in love with this man.

Before the very first time we had sex together (15-years ago and before we were very close) I told him that I had genital herpes. I have never NOT told a man, prior to sex, that this is the case. He didn't have much of a reaction to it, I tried to answer any questions he had, told him I would understand if he didn't want to risk it, and he decided he was willing to take the chance (we did not use protection, since I was on continuous birth-control for another reason, and I was also under the impression that as long as I was not having a break-out, or the signs I came to know as pre-herpetic signs, that he'd be okay. He did not get it.

We tried dating two more times for 2-3 months each over the years, but it has never worked out for one reason or another. During these times, we did not use protection, I never had sex with him when I felt those familiar pre-herpetic signs, and he continued (as far as I know) to stay Herpes-free over the years.

This time, however, is much more of a deep, loving and important relationship to us, that just might work out, but I am aware that I told him about my herpes 15-years ago, so I don't know if he even remembers it. I had an ovary-sparing hysterectomy about 4-years ago (we weren't together at the time), and I've noticed that since I finished menopause, I haven't had any Herpes outbreaks at all.

Then we had sex last night. It was wonderful, and I felt no tingling pre-outbreak signs. I woke up this morning, everything was still clean. But at about 3:15 pm this afternoon, I found a tiny lesion that I know is Herpes. I am devastated!

Is there anything that my boyfriend can do now, before the virus takes hold, to protect himself from getting it, now that he's been exposed to at least some likely viral shedding? Like a sort of "Morning-After" pill for Herpes??
Thank You, I feel terrible about this,
MJ Donovan

Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
40 months ago
Hi MJ,
I answer the herpes questions here on the ASHA forum.
The first question that I would ask you is this:  has your boyfriend been antibody tested to determine if he is already infected or not or are you both just assuming that he is not infected and thus the worry about transmission? 
This might be the time to review with him that you do indeed have herpes, as you told him years ago, and it would be wise for him to be tested to know if there is risk of him acquiring herpes from you or not. 
As you may know now, you can infect him even when you have no symptoms, if he is not already infected.  You taking daily antiviral therapy will reduce the risk of you transmitting to him by about 48% over no therapy.  It seems like now is the time to get him tested, figure out what you both have and how that is different between you if at all, and if he is uninfected for you to begin daily antiviral therapy IF he is concerned about transmission.  Not everyone is. 

Also, I think you should take your picture off this forum; it is best to keep a little privacy here, I think.
Had you noticed the lesion right after you had sex, him taking a large dose of antiviral therapy MIGHT have made a difference, but given that it was the next day, it would not be effective when you noticed the lesion. 

Please feel free to ask me two more questions.

Terri Warren
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40 months ago
Hi Terry,
Yes, it would be smart to remind him of what I told him 15 years ago, but he doesn't forget things like this. He's a serious hypochondriac (the opposit of me), and is constantly self-diagnosing for horrible diseases he thinks he has (but never does).
I'm almost concerned that he'll get herpes faster after I remind him, because his mind-will go into over-drive and he'll start imagining that he sees lesions where there are none.
He has not been tested before, to my knowledge, but then again, we've gone years between seeing each other. I actually have some Acyclovir, but not nearly enough to get me through 7-days, 3x/day, and my doctor's on vacation (without coverage).
I've read some wildly different numbers on this site about how long the incubation period is for Herpes. I've read 4-days and I've read up-to 178 days (or something like that). If I can't give him more information he's just going to flip-out. Can you give me a better idea of incubation period, assuming that he doesn't have Herpes already?
I'm just so nervous as to how I even begin this conversation, and when. He has a family member who will die within the next few days, and we're monogomas right now, but I know I'm going to have to tell him (again).
So, incubation period?
Thanks, MJ
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
40 months ago
The normal time for symptoms to show up (if he is going to get symptoms) would be 2-10 days, with the exact average being 5.5 days.  But as you may know, not everyone who acquires herpes does so with symptoms - some just get infected and symptoms don't show up.  Perhaps the 178 days has more to do with the time it takes for antibody to be developed vs. when symptoms show up - two totally different things.  Have you tried contacting the pharmacy where you got the acyclovir to see if there are any refills available on the prescription? 
If he is remembering that you have herpes and he's having sex with you now, then that's a good thing right? 

Terri

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40 months ago
Hi Terri,

Yes, it is a good thing that this is something he would not forget. During our other two tries at having a relationship, I'm sure he remembers the times when I'd have to adopt a "no panties off (and no touching either)" policy with him, so of that I am  glad!

As far as the Acyclovir (actually I checked the bottle and it's Valacyclovir, I goofed) I know from the bottle that I have no refills left. I emailed my PCP's office last night about a refill, and got an email back today saying that they're "working on it". They are pretty bad at this kind of thing, so usually my cardiologist of all people, writes the script, but he's on vacation. My PCP takes Fridays off, so it won't get done at all if not today. I will call them later to follow-up.

Thank you for your help. I guess there's no way around the fact that this is a situation with no good options. I wish I'd had the usual symptoms that I get ahead of time, because if I had, I would have explained it to him and abstained. I just got nothing this time.

Thanks again, take care,
MJ Donovan

Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
40 months ago
There is just no way to know for sure if he is infected or not if he develops no symptoms unless he does an antibody test.  You have done your best - you have been clear with him, you've told him the truth, you did the best you could to avoid sex with symptoms or outbreaks.  you cannot be perfect!  You can only do the best you can.  You've done this correctly - don't look back now.

Terri
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