STDs Expert Forum
Is oral sex safe if both partners have asymptomatic HSV II, and what if...
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The STD Forum is intended only for questions and support pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV/AIDS, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus, genital warts, trichomonas, other vaginal infections, nongonoccal urethritis (NGU), cervicitis, molluscum contagiosum, chancroid, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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Is oral sex safe if both partners have asymptomatic HSV II, and what if there is no initial outbreak?

I am a 29 yr. old female recently diagnosed HSV II (genital herpes) + after taking a blood test along with my annual pap. My understanding is that you have to have been infected for approx 3 mos. for the HSV II antibodies to show in your blood. I was unknowingly infected by my boyfriend who has been asymtomatic.

Based on his sexual history and past testing he had to have contracted the HSV II at least 1-2 years ago, and has never had any "outbreak" or symptoms. He and I have been sexually active for 6 months, and I have had absolutely NO symptoms of herpes (asymptomatic) either. I infer that I caught it while he was experiencing "asymptomatic shedding".

Two questions:

1) All the herpes info I have seen indicates that most people have an initial outbreak days to a month after infection. Since the blood test I took only shows HSV II antibodies @ 12 or more weeks I infer I was infected 3-6 months ago. Even in reading on how some folks have mild symptoms- I do not recall ANY pimples, bumps, lumps, redness, irritation, itching- nothing. My partner who would have to have had it for 1-2 years also has had no outbreak or symptoms. Is there a chance we will always be asymptomatic?

2) From what I can see, we are not to have unprotected oral sex (or even vaginal sex) when there is an outbreak or sore. My question is, since we are both asymptomatic- can we contract oral herpes if we perform oral sex on each other when we are asymptomatically shedding? And since we would never know if we were shedding does this mean we have to use condoms/dental dam for oral sex always?
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Whoa, slow down.  Your questions apparently are way ahead of the known facts.  You don't describe why you believe you were infected by your current boyfriend and not sometime earlier, nor do you provide evidence that he actually is infected - or if he is, whether you caught HSV-2 from him or vice versa.  It also would be good to know more about the specific kind of blood test you had and exactly what the results showed, to determine for sure whether you have HSV-2.  Your partner needs a current HSV-2 blood test, then the two of you should go together to visit a health care provider knowledgeable about genital herpes, to interpret both your results and what, if anything, need be done to prevent transmission.

The following answers assume you in fact have HSV-2.

1) HSV-2 antibodies develop anywhere from 3 to 16 weeks after the infection is acquired. It is true that the large majority have positive tests after 12 weeks.  However, in people who have never had symptoms and who test positive, most have been infected for several months or years.  If that's the case, the odds are good that you will remain asymptomatic.  Same for your partner, if it turns out he also is infected.

2) If you both have HSV-2, you need not worry about transmission between each other.  People infected with either type of HSV are immune (or at least highly resistant) to new infection with the same type.  This probably is especially so when both persons are sharing the same HSV-2 strain; partners do not "ping pong" genital herpes back and forth.  In other words, you need not use condoms, dams, or any other precautions.  But I stress that these things apply only if your partner also has HSV-2, which may not be the case.  Testing is necessary.

I hope this helps.  You might benefit from some additional background reading about genital herpes.  Excellent information is available at,,, and

Best wishes--  HHH, MD
Thanks you answered all my questions! Sorry I was not more clear, I was trying to condense. I had a blood test w/ a pap which includings HSV 1 & 2 screening, I was told that I tested positive for "HSV 2" & Chlamydia. My boyfriend was tested seperately and also tested positive for HSV 2 & Chlamydia.

The last pap & blood testing for STD's (including HSV 1/2) I had prior to this was in March 2006. My boyfriend and I became sexually active/involved in August 2007. Even before the March 2006 test, I was not sexually active from October 2003 until my boyfriend and I became intimate in August 2007. And I was tested twice between October 2003 and March 2006. So I knew I got it from my boyfriend because there was nobody else, and in the years prior to this happening I had been tested multiple times for this....
Most "routine" STD testing doesn't include tests for HSV-2.  But if you are certain that the previous negative tests included HSV-2 in you and your partner, you might be able to work out who was infected first and who infected the other.  I don't see that it matters and I'll leave that to you.  With respect to prevention, my reply above applies.

If your sexual histories are accurate, then your partner had to come into your relationship infected with chlamydia.  Or one of you has had other partners since then.  In any case, chlamydia is a much more important health issue than herpes.  I trust you both were treated.  You both should be retested for it in 3-4 months.

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H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D.Blank
University of Washington
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