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I just found out I have herpes (HSV-2.) I am scared to tell my girlfriend and that I’ll spread it to her. Will I ever be able to have sex again?

It sounds like this diagnosis is causing some fear about your relationship and your sex life, but I hope to share some information that can relieve some of that fear.  I am happy to answer your questions about telling your partner and reducing the risk of transmission.

Getting tested was your first step, so good for you.  It means that you are interested in your sexual health and I’d encourage you to keep STBBI testing as part of your routine healthcare. (STBBI = sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections)

Before you start the conversation with your girlfriend, get some information about herpes HSV-2.  Talk to your doctor, or the provider who tested you. is also a great resource.

A solid base of knowledge may help this conversation and address some of the fears you have.
You can set a positive tone for the conversation by starting with something like:  “I am really happy with our relationship, and because I want to protect your sexual health and mine, I think we should talk about safer sex.”  It’s best to be honest and direct during the conversation, and also to be patient with the other person who may need some time to process what you are telling them. Share Your Results may have some helpful tips for this conversation.

As for transmission, there are ways to have a sex life while reducing the risk of transmitting HSV-2 to your partner.

STBBIs are often spread because people don’t get tested. Now that you know your status you can move forward with reducing the risk of transmission.

Genital herpes is only passed through direct skin-to-skin contact, both orally and genitally.  Using condoms during vaginal, anal and oral sex can reduce the risk, but won’t completely eliminate it. Using water-based lubricants with condoms make them comfortable and fun and keep the condom from breaking. There are a wide variety of condoms and lubricants available so you may want to try a few to find the ones that you like best.

When you’re having an outbreak or recognize the symptoms of one coming on, you may want to have other kinds of sexual play without sexual intercourse to eliminate the risk entirely. You can access medications and take care of yourself while it runs it’s course by eating well, sleeping, managing your symptoms and your stress levels. All of these measures can help you heal quickly and get back to a great sex life. My last recommendation is that your partner build routine STBBI testing into her healthcare, so that she is also aware of her STBBI status.

I hope this helps, and that you find some comfort in knowing that you are not alone.  Many sexually active adults live with herpes and can manage it on an on-going basis. Please visit the links provided or talk to your health care team for more information. CATIE has good resources as well.