Genital herpes can spread from one partner to the other even when no symptoms are visible. However, there are plenty of things you can do to present transmitting herpes to your partner many your doctor won’t tell you about.
Approximately 20 percent of Americans have genital herpes. An important seven to nine out of 10 individuals who have it are unaware that they have it because they don’t have or don’t notice any tell-tale blisters on their genitals. Genital herpes can be transmitted even if the virus carrier isn’t showing any symptoms, although the likelihood of transmission is greatly increased when there are visible sores.
How is genital herpes spread?
Genital herpes is spread through sexual or skin-to-skin contact with a person who has genital herpes or during oral sex with someone who has oral herpes (cold sores). Herpes is most contagious when the sores are open and fluid leaks out, but can nevertheless infect anyone at any stage.
Genital herpes can be spread even by herpes sufferers who don’t show any symptoms. This is because even normal skin (without herpes blisters) still sheds the virus during asymptomatic infections, so the infected person may still transmit the disease to their sex partner(s). A pregnant mother who has no visible herpes symptoms may also pass on the virus to her baby during childbirth.
How to prevent genital herpes from spreading?
Several factors influence your chances of transmitting herpes; one is whether you practice safe sex, take herpes drugs daily, whether you are aware you have herpes and if you have disclosed it to your sexual partner.
Even though condom use does not completely prevent genital herpes from spreading, it reduces the risk of transmission by 30% to 50%.
Can suppressive therapy reduce the chance of transmitting herpes? Taking the herpes drugs acyclovir or valacyclovir (Valtrex) daily helps relieve the pain and discomfort associated with herpes and also makes the sores heal more quickly; In clinical studies, valacyclovir and acyclovir both reduced herpes transmission by 50%.
Two factors influence whether or not a person will spread herpes to someone else. One is whether that person actually knows (s)he has herpes; the other is which type of herpes (s)he has.
A very large number of people infected with herpes, about 80% of them, are not aware they are carrying the virus. This means they will not pay any attention to herpes signs or else will fail to recognize their symptoms as herpes related. This puts their sexual partners at greater risk of getting herpes from them. Herpes spreads from partner to partner often unnoticed or sometimes only noticed after a long interval.
Testing for herpes removes the risk of transmitting herpes to someone unknowingly. If it turns out you have herpes then you will have the opportunity to take preventive measures to protect your partner from infection.
Telling your partner:
A scientific study tried to establish whether or not the fact that someone knew they had herpes and disclosed it to their partner impacted on the probability of them transmitting it to someone else. Their conclusion was that people who had been properly diagnosed and disclosed herpes were less likely to spread the virus.
Disclosing your herpes infection will also influence your sexual behavior and therefore your chances of transmitting herpes to someone else. In other words, knowing and disclosing your herpes status is one of the greatest favors you can do for anyone you may consider sleeping with.
How to stop spreading genital herpes? My personal experience and advice:
Once you know you have acquired herpes, your first goal should be to learn how to prevent herpes symptoms. Suppressive therapy is one option. I have made a personal choice not to use herpes drugs and I haven’t infected anyone with herpes even after having remained for nine years with the same man. That’s why I believe that medical suppressive therapy and condoms are just two of the many options you have.
Remaining asymptomatic can cut your chances of spreading herpes by half. Indeed, shedding time among people who are asymptomatic and those who are not differs by 50%. No shedding means no transmission risk, so becoming asymptomatic is an important factor.
Another way to reduce herpes transmission risk is to learn how to recognize your early herpes signs. The late Dr Stephen Sacks, author of The Truth about Herpes, believed you could cut asymptomatic shedding by half just by paying close attention to symptoms. I totally agree with him and have used that strategy diligently with great success.
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