The only way to totally avoid contracting herpes is to abstain from any sexual activity including kissing, vaginal sex, anal sex, and oral sex.
If you have herpes, always tell a prospective partner and use protection even if you don’t have an outbreak. Using a condom or dental dam does not guarantee the virus will not be transmitted, as a barrier cannot always cover all infected areas.
Oral herpes can be transmitted to the genitals, and visa versa.
If a person has genital herpes, HSV-2 on their genitals, they can transmit that virus to another person’s facial area, if a condom or dental dam is not used while performing oral sex. A person can also transmit HSV-1 to another person’s genitals by performing oral sex without a condom or dental dam, while shedding the virus with an active cold sore.
If you are sexually active, you can lower your chances of contracting herpes by:
*Being in a long term mutually monogamous relationship with a person who is not infected with HSV
*Reducing the number of sexual partners
*Using latex condoms properly with every sexual encounter
*Using dental dams
*Avoiding vaginal, anal, or oral sex if your sex partner has a herpes sore on their genitals
*Avoiding vaginal, anal, or oral sex during the “prodromal stage”
*Avoiding kissing and oral sex if you have a cold sore
*Using spermicidal foams, jellies, and creams may offer additional protection
*Getting regular STD testing
*Having your sex partner, who is HSV positive, take an antiviral herpes medication every day
Be aware the HSV virus can be spread even when there are no visible sores or symptoms. Many genital herpes infections are spread from persons who are asymptomatic “shedders" of the virus.
Are people with genital herpes at increased risk of getting infected with HIV?
Yes, studies show that HSV-2 infection increases the risk of getting HIV infection, even when there are no symptoms of genital herpes. HSV-2 infection can cause tiny breaks in the genital and anal area that allow HIV to enter into the body. Herpes infection also attracts the type of cells that HIV infects (“target cells”) to the genital area. This increases the chance of getting HIV, if exposed.