10 Ways to Reduce the Risk for Genital Herpes

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on November 25, 2022
2 min read

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

Most people who have genital herpes don't know they're infected, so ask whether they have 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 they fear a negative reaction. If your partner feels comfortable talking with you, you'll be more likely to get straight answers.

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

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

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 they don't have genital herpes. Remember, not everyone with genital herpes has symptoms, and herpes sores can be very hard to spot.

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

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

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.

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.

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.