Can oral sex be safe since I have herpes?

Dear Dr. Amy:

I am a 30-yr old female who has just met a wonderful new guy. I got genital herpes from a not-so-wonderful guy a year and 1/2 ago. I have just recently told my new boyfriend about my herpes, and he was very caring and supportive. The first thing I’d like to do here is tell all those who fear “the discussion” that it’s a lot easier than you think. Your partner cares about you, not the virus. Don’t be afraid to talk about it!!

With that said, I have a question regarding safe-sex practices. While we were discussing herpes, my boyfriend asked me whether or not he would still be able to perform oral sex on me. We haven’t becomesexually active yet, because we both want to be as informed as we possibly can at the outset. My doctor told me that she has married patients that have unprotected sex without any transmissions, but she never mentioned anything about oral sex. Could you please enlighten us?
Thanks ever so much, Seeker of Truth

Dr. Amy’s Response:

Dear Seeker of Truth,

Thanks for your words of encouragement. It is very helpful for other readers to know that people with herpes have continued to maintain satisfying relationships. In response to your question: unprotected genital or oral sex at the site of a known herpes infection always runs a risk. Even when leisons are not present, viral shedding can occur which can spread the disease to a partner. This does not mean that everyone who has unprotected sex will get herpes but THERE IS ALWAYS A RISK.

To play it safe with oral sex, females can cover their genitals with a dental dam. This is a small latex sheet (actually used in dentistry) that allows for sensation while protecting your partner from direct contact.


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