[Question #99] Gential herpes

38 months ago
Hello I really would like some clarification to how gential herpes is transmitted. I was with a girl on several occasions where I was fully clothed and she was naked, we would have "dry sex" because I wasn't ready to take it to the next level. Dry sex consisted of her riding me as if we were having sex for long periods of time. She also would touch her vagina and would then touch my arm, but at no point did I ever take my pants off so my gentials never touched her vagina. Is there a risk? My doctor told me absolutely not!! Along with several other doctors but I just want to be safe. To sum up my penis never left my pants so my jeans and underwear always were on but my shirt was off. Before I thought about taking it to the next level I had her tested and she came back positive for hsv 2. She never knew she had it and never had an outbreak. Please help me in letting me know if i was at risk 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
38 months ago
This is NOT a risk!  I totally agree with your doctor.  Acquiring herpes takes far more contact than the kind that you had with this person. 
I would say more but really, there is nothing more to say here, except to reinforce that this is NOT a risk for herpes.
Please let me know if you have more questions.  I am flying internationally right now so it could be a bit before I answer again.  Thank you for your patience.

Terri
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H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
38 months ago
Greetings and welcome to Ask the Expert. Apologies for the delay in responding -- Terri is on professional travels.

In theory, genital herpes can be transmitted by any direct contact between an infected and a susceptible person's skin or mucous membranes (the moist linings of the genitals, mouth, etc). In practice, almost all infections are transmitted by vaginal, anal, or oral sex, with penile penetration (or sometimes by cunnilingus, i.e. oral-vaginal contact). It could occur by genital contact without penetration, e.g. penile-vulvar rubbing, but almost all cases are from intercourse. One of the reasons is that brief, fleeting contact with the virus usually isn't sufficient -- usually the virus must be "massaged" into the susceptible area. That's why initial genital herpes almost always shows up at the sites of maximum friction during sex:  the head and shaft of the penis, and the vaginal opening or labia minor in women (or anus following anal sex exposures). Recurrent herpes sometimes causes outbreaks in nearby areas like the labia major, buttocks, scrotum, etc, but new infections rarely involve those sites.

The virus probably is never transmitted through clothing, even when clothing becomes moist with semen, vaginal fluids, etc. Cloth is a very efficient filter that allows only fluids to pass, and not cells, bacteria, or viruses. Similarly, women virtually never get pregnant following sexual events like the ones you describe.

For those reasons, you needn't be at all worried about your partner's HSV2 infection. There is no way you caught it from the events described. In fact, even with unprotected sex you would have been at low risk. When one person has asymptomatic HSV2, like your partner, the virus is transmitted on average only once for ever 1,000 episodes of unprotected vaginal sex.

If you believe this relationship has promise for the long term, your partner's HSV2 infection should not be allowed to interfere. Transmission can be prevented, usually without difficulty or with signficant impact on rewarding sex. Finally, since your partner is without symptoms, she might benefit from additional testing to learn for sure whether her test result was accurate. Or she could post her own question on Ask the Expert! Maybe we'll be hearing from her.

I hope these comments have helped. Best wishes--  HHH, MD


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H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
38 months ago
Oops -- sorry to Terri for jumping in -- we were answering simultaneously!---
38 months ago
Thank you very much so to sum up I can't get it from someone touching there self in the vagina and then touch my arm or hand or head or even back 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
38 months ago
No, the reason you can't it because the skin of the arm and hand and head and back are all thick skin.  Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (and an oral disease) because the skin of the genitals is very thin and easily entered by the virus.   The nerves it likes to infect are just under the skin.  It's part of what makes sex so much fun!  The nerves are readily available.  In the other parts of the body that you ask about, the skin is much thicker and virus cannot successfully get it. 

I think if you are in a caring relationship with this person, it is important not to make her feel like she is infectious all over the place, which she is not.  And you are not vulnerable all over the place on your body, which you are not either. 

So far you've practiced extremely safe sex.  If you move into a more intimate relationship with her, there may be more risk and you can certainly run those questions by myself or Dr. Handsfield. 

Sorry my first post was so brief - I am traveling internationally and only have sporadic internet access. So glad Dr. Handsfield could also step in here with a great answer. You've got a couple more questions available to you through your current subscription - we don't have to count that last one sentence - feel free to ask away!

Terri
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38 months ago
Thank you for the response. I have had pain in my testicles, inner thighs, and penis for the past several weeks and it's really bothering me. No sores or anything but a lot of pain and irratation. Not sure what it is?? Most of the irratation is in my inner thighs and testicles. 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
38 months ago
So Frankie, I don't know what that is, but if you have testicular pain, this is something that you should have evaluated by a professional.  Herpes does not cause testicular pain, so that's a good thing, right? 

Terri
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