Sex Question: Do I Have To Tell My Partner If I Have Oral Herpes But No Outbreaks?

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Dear Dr. H,

*My college women’s clinic is extremely thorough, so my standard exams have included testing for herpes, which I understand isn’t always the case. I came up positive for antibodies against oral herpes infection (HSV-1). However, I don’t remember ever having a cold sore (or anything in the genital region) so I assume I was infected with oral herpes as a child. Since I don’t have breakouts, what responsibility do I have in dating? I believe in being tested before sex and will definitely share my results then, but do I have a duty to avoid kissing? It seems like there is such a small chance of me passing on what is already a very common virus that telling would ruin my dating. *

Read on for Dr. Hilda Hutcherson’s response.

A. The HSV-1 that appeared in your blood test most likely represents the common cold sore. And what you describe isn’t unusual: Most adults have been exposed to oral herpes (HSV-1) and many of us do not remember having a cold sore. Oral-to-genital transmission in the absence of an outbreak is rare, so you don’t need to share this bit of news with your future partners. Of course, like everyone else, you should never kiss or perform oral sex on someone if you do have signs of a cold sore. It should also be noted that many people (close to half) infected with genital herpes (HSV-2) have never had a single visible blister or haven’t recognized an outbreak. Always, always err on the safe side and use a condom when having intercourse. For more information, contact the National Herpes Hotline.

Readers, do you have any questions about herpes? Let’s talk about them here!

Or, if you have a question about anything related to your sexual health, feel free to leave it in the comments section below, or send me an e-mail. And don’t forget to check back regularly, right here on Vitamin G to see if I’ve answered it.

__Read more sex health questions here! Specifically, check out Sex Question: Can I Get Herpes From My Friend’s Clothes?


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