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Frequently Asked Questions When Your Partner Has Genital Herpes

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When you find out a partner has genital herpes, you may be shocked at first and then have lots of questions. Here are some answers.

How likely is it that I've been infected with genital herpes, too?

That depends on whether you have always practiced safe sex, for one thing. Also, it may depend on how long you've been sexually intimate with each other.

If you've had sex only once or twice, and if you used a condom each time, the risk is lower than if you've had unprotected sex for a long time. But you could have been infected during any one encounter.

Don't think you're in the clear because you've never seen herpes sores on your partner's genitals or your own. The symptoms of genital herpes are often subtle and easily mistaken for something else, like bug bites, pimples, razor burn, or hemorrhoids. What's more, the virus can be contagious even when there are no symptoms.

How can I protect myself from genital herpes if we keep having sex?

While no prevention method short of abstinence is 100% effective, using a latex condom offers some protection. Your partner should tell you when symptoms flare up, which is when the virus is most contagious. Avoid sex when your partner has symptoms.

How can I find out if I've been infected with genital herpes?

Go to your doctor and get tested. A doctor may take a sample from what appears to be a genital herpes sore and send it to a lab for testing.

You can also have a blood test. The blood test looks for antibodies to the virus that the immune system would have made when you were infected. The second type of herpes simplex virus, HSV-2, almost always infects the genitals, so if antibodies to HSV-2 are detected in the blood, you probably have genital herpes. A blood test that shows antibodies to the other type of herpes virus, HSV-1, means you could have genital or oral herpes. That's because oral herpes, typically caused by HSV-1, can be spread to the genitals during oral sex.

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