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Possible Herpes Simplex Virus 2 transmission
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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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Possible Herpes Simplex Virus 2 transmission

Hello Dr.  I have had 4 sexual encounters with a woman(I'm a male) I met several weeks ago. 3 encounters were protected sex, however, the last encounter there was a period that it was unprotected(due to condom breaking). Upon realizing this, we stopped but the act was no more than 10 minutes until I realized that the condom broke.  Well her ex boyfriend called her two nights ago and tested positive for HSV-2.  She had blood work done last week and she is positive as well.  I am extremely distraught and terrified that I may have been exposed during that brief encounter.  She hasn't had any sores, lesions or any symptoms as of yet and her results determined that she has had it (asymptomatically) for at least a month. That last encounter was a week ago and I went and had a blood test yesterday to  ease my fears but I'm still scared to death.  I can't concentrate at work nor sleep well. My question to you is what are my chances of contracting HSV-2 during that period of unprotected sex.  I haven't seen any symptoms on my body as of yet.  Thank you
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Don't overreact; 'extremely distraught' is not justified.  In the US, about 20-25% of all sexually active people have genital HSV-2 infections and most of them don't know it.  So if you have had, say, 10 lifetime sex partners, you can be pretty sure you have been exposed previously to a couple of partners with genital herpes.  That you happen to know about this particular partner isn't especially alarming.  Unless you demand all sex partners in your future to have an HSV-2 blood test before getting it on (which I definitely do not recommend!) you're going to be exposed in the future as well.

Further, among monogamous couples in whom one person has HSV-2 and the other does not, and who have sex an average of 2-3 times per week and do not use condoms or other precautions, transmission occurs in only about 5% of couples each year.  That gives you a clue about the likelihood of transmission during any particular sexual exposure, including your broken condom event.  If she was not having an overt outbreak at the time, your risk obviously was low.  That you haven't had any symptoms also is in your favor; most initial HSV infections cause symptoms within a week.

One final possibility:  What did your partner say about when she and her partner probably were infected?  Does she suspect you are the source of her infection?  That seems unlikely, since apparently you used condoms during your previous sexual adventures with her.  (Condoms aren't perfect in prevention herpes, but they work pretty well.)  Still, you could be among the 20-25% infected unknowingly.  If your blood test is positive, it will mean you have been infected for at least 6 weeks and probably several months or longer.  If negative, it will prove you were not the source of her infection.

Bottom line:  The strong odds are you didn't catch HSV-2 from your partner.  The blood test results will help sort things out.

Good luck--  HHH, MD
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She told me that it was transmitted to her by her ex boyfriend.  Thank you for breaking down the transmissable rates for me too. Guess I really had a low chance.  Thing is I really caught feelings for her and actually cried when she found out that she tested positive so I feel guilty.  But we will def continue to hang out and maybe even have intercourse.....very carefully.  Thanks you really have calmed me down considerably and this website is a Godsend. Thank you again
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Glad to be of help.  I hope you'll be a mensch:  buy her a nice dinner and acknowledge that you overreacted and didn't mean to hurt her feelings.  And you'll feel less guilty.  Herpes isn't an important enough health problem to get in the way of friendships or potentially rewarding romantic relationships.
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I'm totally with HHH - take her out for a nice dinner and treat her special - I'm sure she' s just as upset about all this as you are!!!  

Also both of you should take the time to read the herpes handbook and watch the patient counseling video at www.westoverheights.com. Both are filled with terrific info to help you better understand genital herpes as well as how to significantly lower your risk of contracting hsv2 from her when you resume being intimate again.  www.ashastd.org also has info too for more reading.  You will always be more likely NOT to contract hsv2 from her than you are to get it - even if you only take the precaution of avoiding sex whenever she has anything going on genitally but with just a little effort - you can make it even less likely that you'll contract hsv2.  

Hang in there - I know it seems like a lot right now for the two of you but hopefully with some education and some passing of time - you'll both realize it's just a pesky lil virus and won't really stand in the way of having a terrific relationship and incredibly satisfying sex life together :)

grace
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Tests came back negative. thanks again
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H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D.Blank
University of Washington
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