I was diagnosed a couple of weeks ago with herpes – from an outbreak not blood test. This may have come from protected sex with an escort which I engaged in twice – once about seven months ago and once a little under 3 months ago. (Having read extensively since re herpes I realize I can’t be sure she was the source, but just on timing it seems likely.) The GU clinic that diagnosed my herpes are running the full range of STI tests which I recognize is a sensible and routine precaution, but the doctor’s comments that condom’s are only “80% effective” against HIV and 60% against gonorrhea scared the living daylights out of me!
Since then from endless googling I realize that this does not mean the chance of failure on any one occasion, and with regards to HIV I don’t have any realistic worries. But I am getting horribly anxious about other STIs, especially gonorrhea and chlamydia and this is leading to hyper-vigilance to every possible ‘odd’ feeling in my penis. I’ve got to wait another two weeks to take the test for these because I had just finished a course of antibiotics for a tooth abscess before I visited the clinic – and then it will be another two weeks to the results. Frankly I am worried about the effect on my health of all this anxiety. I absolutely realize you can’t diagnose me by e-mail or give me an exact percentage risk figure, but it may help the endless mental hamster-wheels if I could get a clearer understanding of how gonorrhea and chlamydia could be transmitted when a condom is used. Is the risk only if a condom breaks or comes off? Could there be tiny breaks in my skin at the base of the penis through which vaginal secretions could enter the bloodstream? I should say that the condom was used both times from well before any oral or vaginal sex, and I’m absolutely sure there were no mishaps. Also, the second time vaginal penetration was very brief and I didn’t insert my penis fully into her.
You are right in your statement that effectively you are not able to say when exactly you contracted your herpes. The majority of people with new onset herpes do not have any symptoms at all and may go literally for years and years without attacks or signs or symptoms. Consequently although you do have these two specific episodes in mind your herpes may have originated from any time from your first sexual encounter with someone else who may also have been unaware they had it.
The comments about condoms are misleading I think. Provided the condom stays on, does not slip or tear and does not reveal the head or foreskin AND was in use for all genital to genital contact then I would say there was near 100% protection against HIV.
HIV can though be spread by sucking an HIV positive male with a high viral load where ejaculation occurs into the mouth and some people will think that a condom for penetrative vaginal / anal sex will protect them magically against this as well.
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are much more infectious than HIV. HIV has a vaginal transfer rate of something of the order of 0.001% whereas chlamydia and gonorrhoea have a transfer rate of probably near 20% so a huge difference. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are easily spread from genital contact - even just genital rubbing. Again though, protection of the head of the penis and foreskin by a condom will very effectively PREVENT infection. Sucking or licking of genitals or rubbing unprotected will allow infection. Condom tear, slippage, not being used etc will also allow for spread.
My view would be that if you have used a condom throughout and as you say it has remained intact and on then spread of these illnesses will not occur. They will not spread via abrasions at the base of the shaft etc.
Thanks Sean - that's very helpful. I've been debating whether to rush off an pay for an expensive private test for gonorrhea and chlamydia rather than face the 2 weeks wait from NHS, but your reply makes me think there's better things to do with my money and time! I guess the anxiety comes from feeling I've been unlucky with HSV and maybe could get unlucky again - faulty inductive logic!
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