Reducing Your Risk for Genital Herpes
Have a sexual relationship with one partner who has been tested for genital herpes and is not infected is another way to reduce your chances of getting infected. Be faithful to each other, meaning that you only have sex with each other and no one else.
Using a condom correctly each and every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex can decrease the chances of getting genital herpes. For vaginal sex, use a latex male condom or a female polyurethane condom. For anal sex, use a latex male condom. For oral sex, use a dental dam. A dental dam is a rubbery material that can be placed over the anus or the vagina before sexual contact.
Keep in mind, though, that condoms are not as effective at preventing herpes transmission as they are at preventing the transmission of some other STDs. This is because the male condom does not prevent all skin-to-skin contact. The female condom provides wider coverage and might offer greater protection.
Understand Birth Control
Know that some methods of birth control, like birth control pills, shots, implants, or diaphragms, will not protect you from STDs, including genital herpes. If you use one of these methods, be sure to also use a latex condom or dental dam (for oral sex) correctly every time you have sex.
If you have genital herpes, there are also some things that you can do to decrease the chances of spreading genital herpes to others. This includes the following:
- Abstain from sexual activity. This is the surest way to avoid transmitting genital herpes -- not having any anal, oral, or vaginal sex.
- You should tell your partners that you have genital herpes before you have sex with them, even if you aren't having an outbreak and intend to use a condom.
Do not have sex with an uninfected sex partner (even with condoms) during the entire duration of a herpes outbreak. This means from the beginning of early symptoms (see Early Symptoms of Genital Herpes) until the blisters are completely healed.
- Be aware of mild genital herpes symptoms, and avoid sex during those times.
- Between outbreaks, condoms should be used correctly and consistently to minimize transmission. However, be aware that condoms are not as effective at preventing genital herpes transmission as they are at preventing the transmission of some other STDs.
- Use antiviral medicines. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Valtrex® (valacyclovir) for use in genital herpes prevention. It has to be taken continuously by the infected person, and while it significantly decreases the risk of the transmission of genital herpes, transmission can still occur.