If you’ve recently been diagnosed with herpes, you may have a lot of questions about how this will affect your sex life.
The first important reminder is that you’re not alone! According to the World Health Organization, 3.7 billion people under age 50 have Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1) and 417 million people between ages 15 and 49 worldwide have Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2).
There are even dating sites specifically for people with herpes!
If I have herpes will my partner definitely get it too?
Condoms can be an effective way to protect your partner, but this doesn’t work 100% of the time because people may have herpes outbreaks in areas that are not covered by condoms. Herpes can spread by skin-to-skin contact, not just oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
Treatment can also reduce the risk of herpes spreading to your partner, but it’s important for them to understand that there is still a risk of contracting herpes.
My previous partners did not tell me they had herpes and now I have it! Were they lying to me?
Not necessarily - people can have herpes and not know it if they do not have symptoms. It’s healthy and normal to discuss any history of STIs with potential partners before engaging in sexual activity, and it’s important to be honest - even if it feels uncomfortable.
I’m just starting to date someone - when should I tell them that I have herpes?
There may not be a perfect time to have this conversation, but to be respectful of your partner you should have the conversation before engaging in sexual activity. Keep in mind that your partner may have an STI too, or they might not have as much information as you do and want to ask you questions.
Here are some examples of how you might disclose an STI like herpes to a partner or ask a partner about their STI status:
[If you know you have herpes beforehand] “Before we take our relationship to the next level and become intimate with each other, I wanted to be up front about the fact that I have herpes in case you have any questions. I want to make sure we both feel comfortable with this.”
[If you find out you have herpes after] “After we hooked up, I got tested and found out I have herpes. The doctor suggested that you get tested as well, even if you’re not symptomatic. I’ve already done research on it and can share some resources if that would be helpful.”
[If you want to know about your partner’s STI status] “I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with you lately! Before we take this further, it's important to me to know whether you have been tested for STIs recently. If you haven’t, I can share the contact information for the clinic I go to.”
The bottom line - these conversations may be uncomfortable, but herpes is not a deal breaker and you deserve to find a partner who can have mature and respectful conversations about sexual health!