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10 Ways to Reduce the Risk for Genital Herpes

1. Use a condom every time you have sex.

A condom may protect you from the herpes virus if it covers the infected area.

2. Ask your partner if he or she has ever had a sexually transmitted disease.

Most people who have genital herpes don't know they're infected, so ask whether he or she has had any other sexually transmitted disease. People with a history of STDs are more likely to have genital herpes.

It may be awkward, but it's important to be honest with each other. Your partner may be afraid to tell you the truth if he or she fears a negative reaction. If your partner feels comfortable talking with you, you'll be more likely to get straight answers.

3. Ask your partner about his or her sexual history.

Someone who has had many sexual partners is more likely to be infected with the herpes virus.

4. Limit the number of sexual partners you have.

The fewer sexual partners you have in your lifetime, the less likely you are to be exposed to the herpes virus.

5. Don't have sex with a partner who has sores on his or her genitals.

If you know your partner has genital herpes, always abstain from sex when symptoms are present. Or, if you see a sore on someone's genitals, don't have sex with that person until you're sure he or she doesn't have genital herpes. Remember, not everyone with genital herpes has symptoms, and herpes sores can be very hard to spot.

6. Don't receive oral sex from somebody with a cold sore.

Oral herpes, which causes sores on the mouth (known as cold sores of fever blisters), can be passed to the genitals through oral sex.

7. Ask your partner to be tested for genital herpes.

If you think your partner is at high risk for genital herpes, you may consider asking him or her to be tested. In that case, you should be tested, too.

8. Don't have sex while intoxicated.

Alcohol and illicit drugs lower inhibitions and impair judgment. People tend to be less careful about practicing safer sex while intoxicated and they often regret it later.

9. Abstain from sex until you have a life-long monogamous partner.

The only way to be 100% certain you won't get a sexually transmitted disease is to have just one sex partner who has no STDs -- and only if both of you stay monogamous.

10. Try alternate forms of sexual intimacy.

If you don't want to be monogamous or totally celibate until you find a life partner, you could greatly reduce the risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease by doing things that don't involve genital-genital contact or oral-genital contact, such as mutual masturbation.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Debbie Bridges, MD on August 06, 2012
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