Communicate with Your Partner
If you have herpes, it’s important to be open and honest about it with a new partner. “This is a conversation that has to come right up front if you feel like you’re going to be sexually active with someone new,” says Dr. Bettin. Both people should get an STD test (even if you know you have herpes, you should also get tested for other diseases). “You want to know what you’re each bringing to the relationship. This is a trust builder — and hiding the information can be a trust breaker,” she says.
Being open will protect you both and help your partner understand why you want to use condoms.
Take Steps to Prevent the Spread
One of the first questions people ask when they get diagnosed with herpes is: “What’s the risk I’ll give it to a sexual partner?” says Fred Wyand, a sexual health educator and manager of ASHA’s herpes simplex virus programs. “Your chances aren’t zero, but you can control the risk more than you might think,” he notes. Follow these three steps for prevention:
1. Avoid Sex During Outbreaks
Although it’s unlikely that you’re going to want to be intimate during an outbreak, it’s important to know that this is the time when the virus is most active and most likely to be transmissible, says Wyand. “Wait until all your symptoms go away, including any sores, itching, and tingling,” he advises.
2. Use Male Condoms
Using condoms consistently will diminish your risk of transmitting herpes to your partner. Over time, couples in monogamous relationships may decide to forego the condom entirely. “There’s nothing unreasonable about that at all, and it all depends on your comfort level in the relationship,” says Wyand. As your relationship progresses, talk to your partner so you can make a choice that works for you both.
3. Try Medication
Talk to your doctor about an antiviral medication to suppress the virus. You can take it to speed healing at the onset of an outbreak, or daily if you suffer from frequent outbreaks. “Research has shown that taking Valtrex daily as a suppressive therapy can reduce transmission by about half,” says Wyand.