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When Do I Tell the Person I'm Dating that I have HSV-1 or HSV-2?


Reader 1: I am dating for the first time since contracting hsv1 & hsv2. Should I tell my dates even before I kiss them? Can it be transmitted by snuggling? What is a good way to handle this? Any advice would be great.

Reader 2: is an HSV-1 infection on the genitals considered an STD; aren't STDs usually considered to be related to sexual intercourse as opposed to oral sex? Also is a person who is infected with HSV-1 genitally obligated to discuss this with sexual partners in the same way those with type 2 are? If so, then why doesn't the same standard of disclosure apply to people with oral HSV-1? Especially, since it is obvious they can and do spread the same virus so easily. I've never heard of a person with cold sores being counseled to inform dates about their virus.

~ Need HSV Answers

Dear Need HSV Answers,

For those reading this who don't know about HSV-1 and HSV-2 (also known as Genital Herpes), here's a quick overview, courtesy of the CDC:

"Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). Most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. Most individuals have no or only minimal signs or symptoms from HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection. When signs do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break, leaving tender ulcers (sores) that may take two to four weeks to heal the first time they occur. Typically, another outbreak can appear weeks or months after the first, but it almost always is less severe and shorter than the first outbreak. Although the infection can stay in the body indefinitely, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years...

HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be found in and released from the sores that the viruses cause, but they also are released between outbreaks from skin that does not appear to be broken or to have a sore. Generally, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. Transmission can occur from an infected partner who does not have a visible sore and may not know that he or she is infected. HSV-1 can cause genital herpes, but it more commonly causes infections of the mouth and lips, so-called "fever blisters." HSV-1 infection of the genitals can be caused by oral-genital or genital-genital contact with a person who has HSV-1 infection. Genital HSV-1 outbreaks recur less regularly than genital HSV-2 outbreaks."

For more information, read our HSV-1 and HSV-2 section.

To reader 2: Because many STDs can be transmitted as a result of oral sex, those transmitted by such are equally considered STDs. Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of thinking that they can't catch an STD via oral sex, but you can and it happens more than people probably realize. People with oral HSV-1 also need to tell their partner, since it can be transmitted by kissing, even (at times) without a visible sore.

To reader 1: Great question! Interestingly enough, the majority of adults have oral herpes (and many don't even know it). It is estimated that somewhere between 50% to 80% of the adult population have the disease and many even contract it as babies when kissed by someone who has it. It's nothing to be "ashamed" of. It is important that you tell a date about your oral herpes before entering the kissing stage of your relationship. It's important that you not let herpes define you, but rather manage the condition and realize that millions of people are successfully managing herpes, dating, marrying, etc.

Telling a love interest about your situation may seem like a major stress, but becomes a "load off of your shoulders" once it is done. Many people are shocked at how supporting their partners are when being told. Just be honest and upfront. Most people will want to be comforting and supportive in such a situation because of the stress it causes you in "talking" about it.

By the way, there's no evidence that it can be transmitted by snuggling, so snuggle away!

If, at anytime, you feel you need questions answered or support in telling a partner, feel free to call the National Herpes Hotline at (919) 361-8488.

If you have a question for the STD Advice column, simply put your question in the anonymous form below and click Submit. Once you click Submit, your question will be anonymously emailed to us. While we can't answer or publish all questions, we do try to questions within a one week period of submission. Check back to see if yours is answered.

Only a physician can properly diagnose whether or not you have an STD. Thus it is important that you get an STD test done if you have a concern. None of the advice given in this column is a substitute for physician advice.

If you think you may have a sexually transmitted disease, you should see a physician immediately to be properly diagnosed and treated. You should not try to diagnose or treat symptoms on your own.

Getting Help for an STD >

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