He told me that he has Herpes

Dear Dr. Tom:

I met a guy recently that I became very interested in. We are just friends for now, but there is a possibility of developing a sexual relationship. I am really really really attracted to that person both intellectually and physically. Few days ago, he told me that he has herpes. All I said was: "I appreciate you letting me know" – and I meant it. We both know that we want to become more intimate, but I am not sure how to protect myself. Are there any questions I need to ask him? What kind of protection should we use? Is there any way a person can know whether or not he sheds asymptomatically? Please let me know.

Thank you, Mescha

Dr. Tom’s Response:

Dear Mescha:

Let’s answer the last part of your question first: If a person is known to be infected with herpes virus the (most extreme) safe assumption is that the virus can be shed by the infected person asymptomatically. This does not always happen. While it may not be as convenient, assume that if the virus is present in the system, its presence poses an infectious hazard.

Barrier protection, i.e., a condom, is the best way to provide a means to prevent the virus from reaching another susceptible would-be host, YOU. Rarely, barrier protection has been known to fail. However, a herpes infection is not the end of the world for its host, and if the guy means such a great deal to you, you will at least know the maximum risk involved in the relationship.

If the two of you are to become intimate, you might wish to learn of the man’s history of recurrences of his herpes infection. Also, since herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, it may not be his lone ranger. STDs sometimes are infectious co-habitors. Has he ever experienced or been treated for other STDs or considered that he might have been infected with another STD? These are very difficult questions to deal with, but remember that you are planning to sleep with every other person your man has slept with.


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