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Frequently Asked Questions After a Genital Herpes Diagnosis

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How often will I have symptoms of genital herpes?

That depends on the type of herpes virus you have. After being infected, people with herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) tend to have far fewer and less severe outbreaks than those infected with herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2). Both types can cause genital herpes. Many people never have symptoms, and don't even know they are infected.

In those who do have symptoms, how often they will appear and how long they will last varies greatly from person to person. Stress, illness, menstruation, and various other things can trigger a flare-up.

Should I tell my partner I have genital herpes?

You should tell any sex partner that you have genital herpes. It's important to learn all you can about the condition and share that information. Then you and your partner can make an informed decision about sex. Tell a partner that there is always a chance of getting the virus from you, but that there are ways to reduce the risk, such as using latex condoms and avoiding sex when you have symptoms.

There are plenty of reasons why you should communicate openly. Your partner may have infected you, and he or she should know. It may also help your relationship in the long run. Your partner is likely to appreciate honesty.

When breaking the news, explain how common genital herpes is: About one in five adults in the U.S. are infected. You can say it's like having cold sores on the mouth (which 50% to 80% of all adults in the U.S. have), except the virus has infected your genitals. It will also help if you're calm when talking to your partner and approach the discussion with a positive attitude: "I think we can work this out so that we'll both be happy," not, "This will probably tear us apart, but…."

If you were sexually intimate with your partner before you were diagnosed, he or she should be tested for the virus.

Where can I find support for genital herpes?

Many resources are available for people living with genital herpes. A good place to start is the CDC National STD/HIV Hotline: 1-800-227-8922. Also, talk to your doctor about any concerns you have.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Debbie Bridges, MD on August 06, 2012
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