ZocdocAnswersIs it safe to have sex with someone who has genital herpes?

Question

Is it safe to have sex with someone who has genital herpes?

My new girlfriend told me that she has genital herpes. We haven't had sex yet and I don't know if I want to. Is it safe to have sex with someone if they have herpes? Can I still be okay if we don't have sex when she's having a breakout or whatever?

Answer

Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a virus. Herpes is quite common, with about one in six people being affected in the United States. Transmission of the virus from males to females is more likely than transmission from females to males. Unfortunately, however, there is no cure for herpes so you have good reason to be concerned about contracting it from your new girlfriend. The only way to completely guarantee that you do not contract herpes from your girlfriend is to abstain from sex. Although the infection is much more easily spread if you have sex with your girlfriend during an outbreak, it is still possible to spread the virus between outbreaks when the skin is intact. Wearing a condom can reduce your chances of contracting herpes but it is still possible as the virus is spread by skin contact in areas that are not covered by a condom. It is important to talk to your primary care doctor about the risks of contracting genital herpes and to be tested for other STDs if you are sexually active. Make sure that your girlfriend has also been tested for other STDs as some have little or no symptoms.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.