[Question #5620] Lesbian sex and genital HSV-1

22 months ago
Hi Terri. I'm a woman who was diagnosed with genital HSV-1 a week ago (due to oral sex from my female partner, who has oral HSV-1, but has never had an outbreak). The swab test came back positive, but the blood tests were negative, so I know I got it from my partner, since she's the only person I've had sex with in the past six weeks. 

I am curious about how careful I need to be with future female partners, both those who know they do have HSV-1 and those who know they don't have it. My questions are these:
  • If a partner already has oral HSV-1, can I give it to her genitally via genital contact or by performing oral sex on her?
  • If a partner does not have HSV-1, can I transmit it to her genitals via performing oral sex on her, even though mine is genital HSV-1? My understanding is that the virus stays in the location where I got it, so I can't transmit it via my mouth, only via genital contact. Is that right?
  • If I am engaged in sexual contact with a woman and I touch my own genitals, do I then need to wash my hands before touching her genitals?
  • Since I only acquired the virus recently, am I at particularly high risk to transmit it in the first few months after infection? Should I refrain from all sexual contact with people who don't have HSV-1 during the first few months?
  • In the future, if I have sex with women who do not have HSV-1, I know that barriers are recommended to guard against viral shedding. I am curious about genital-to-genital contact. Is underwear a sufficient barrier? I read that the boxer short region should be covered. Is this also the case for women? I'm just wondering how much fabric I will need to swath myself in. ;-)
Thanks for your help, and for this messageboard. It's great. 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
22 months ago
If someone knows that they already have HSV 1 infection, then it is highly unlikely that they would acquire a new HSV 1 infection at a new location.  Highly unlikely.  If I were in your situation, I wouldn't worry about that situation.  If you are having sex with someone who is truly HSV 1 negative,  and your infection is only genital, then there is no risk of you giving them oral sex.  You are correct.  You do not need to wash your hands after touching your own genitals, no, hands are not a reasonable mode of transmission between sex partners. 
You are correct that you are more infectious during the first several months after acquiring infection, but I don't think you need to have sex only with women who are HSV 1 positive.  If other are the giver of oral sex to you, there is a small risk that they could acquire HSV 1 orally - not a great risk but a small one.  The boxer short region does not need to be covered, if there is genital to genital contact, a barrier such as underwear is sufficient.  A large tent-like garment is not necessary!