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Genital herpes, sex and transmission

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If you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and are sexually active, it’s important that you try to minimise the risk of passing the virus on to your partner. This can be tricky as the virus can be transmitted at any time, not just when you have an outbreak. Condoms offer a degree of protection against the transmission of genital herpes, but do not provide 100% protection.

Genital herpes can be transmitted from one person to another through any form of sexual contact. This includes vaginal, oral and anal sex.
Penis ↔ Vagina (vaginal sex)
Penis ↔ Anus (anal sex)
Penis ↔ Mouth (oral sex)
Vagina ↔ Mouth (oral sex)

The reason that condoms do not provide 100% protection is because the genital herpes virus can literally ‘shed’ from other parts of your genital region (not covered by the condom) onto your partner. This is called viral shedding.

Viral shedding doesn’t just occur when you have symptoms of an outbreak. It can happen at any time. This means there is a risk of passing on the virus even when you don’t have any symptoms. It is recommended that you use a condom whenever you engage in sexual activity.

It is important to remember that genital herpes doesn’t have to spell the end of a healthy sex life. It just means that you need to take some extra precautions. Condoms and suppressive therapy are the most effective way to reduce the risk of passing on genital herpes to your partner.

Speak to your doctor about the treatment of genital herpes and the most effective way to protect your partner.