I am a female in my forties who contracted HSV2 many years ago after unprotected sex with a partner who had not told me he had herpes. Recently, I met a man I am attracted to and respect very much. Before we even went on our second date, I told him about my condition so that he could make an informed decision about continuing to see me. He was really appreciative of my telling him. We like each other a lot and decided to move ahead and get to know one another better. Before intercourse, we decided that it was best if he got tested, knowing that 90% of those who have been exposed to herpes do not know it. His results were negative for both HSV1 and HSV2. I purchased "The Good News about the Bad News" and felt more informed and yes... even more empowered! We have however become sexual to a certain degree, no intercourse. We have had additional conversations about intercourse and are VERY reluctant/scared to move in that direction because of the risk of transmission. Before we decide if we want to move ahead in bed we need to become more knowledgeable about the risks involved from a neutral and knowledgeable source. He has placed some blocks to becoming more educated on the matter of transmission because he feels that no matter how much we talk and learn, if he does contract herpes from me he will be angry and resentful towards me and feels badly about that. So, I wanted to know how we can minimize the chances of transmission (ex. using condoms, suppressive medications etc). What are the percentages of transmission from a positive female to a negative male? Are there couples out there who have been sexual (have had intercourse with or without condoms) and have avoided transmission? Is it inevitable for him to contract herpes from me? What activities can we do in bed and be safe? What activities do we definitely have to avoid? I am sorry about long post and hope that you can help us gain some clarity.
It sounds like your are being very thoughtful and proactive about this whole issue, which is terrific.
The transmission rates from an infected female to an uninfected male are about 4% per year - add suppressive therapy and it is cut in half, add condoms, and it is also reduced more. There are many many couples out there who don't transmit = look at these numbers in a year and they are not cumulative over time. It is certainly not inevitable that you will transmit to him. Mutual masturbation is safe, you giving him oral sex is safe (unless you also have HSV 1 orally). Intercourse is risky, both vaginal and anal. Him giving you oral sex has some low risk of him acquiring HSV orally.
If he is going to "angry and resentful" towards you if he contracts herpes, knowing ahead of time that you are infected and knowing that he will be taking a small risk, then that's kind of a set up for you, isn't it? I mean, knowing ahead of time that if you do everything you can to prevent transmission that he will still react in this way? I don't mean to be negative, but that seems to me to be not a great situation. The best situation is that he becomes educated, accepts the risk, and decides the relationship is worth it, totally, to be with you. For me, anything else is really not would I would want to make me feel loved and accepted and worth the small risk of transmission. Maybe you two need to get to know each other better. Maybe he will come to that conclusion as well. If not, frankly, I would be reluctant to go there. That prelude would cause me to think twice, or more. Just my opinion, but I"ve seen women (it is almost always women who find themselves in this kind of situation) with men who are afraid of contracting herpes, who live for months with someone who so dreads getting herpes from them that they can't really fully engage in a great sexual relationship. Then the women start feeling kind of bad about themselves, and things get more and more tense. I hope you two will come to something better than this. But beware the potential pitfalls here and be careful with your heart. For some people, herpes is really scary and dreaded and for him, this might be the case.
Thank you for your caring and frank response. I agree that it is best for us to get to know each other better to see if with more information, mutual affection and by taking preventative measures we can come to something better than reacting from fear and anger.
In the spirit of becoming more educated, I read the "pooled analysis of the effect of condoms in preventing HSV-2 acquisition" and believe that the 4% risk factor you mentioned above would be further reduced (by approx 30%) with proper use of condoms 100% of the time, taking the risk of transmission to 1.2%. Then, if suppressive medications are used, this could reduce that 1.2% even further (by approx 50%) resulting in a risk of transmission of approx .6%. Understanding that these numbers are not absolutes and the risk of transmission never disappears, are my calculations correct?
I also understand that if we don't undergo some personal growth the risk of heartache and emotional pain is considerably higher for me than the .6% of transmission would be for him! Once again, thank you for your answers!
I don't think your math is quite right, but I think the risk is somewhere between 1 and 2% with condoms and suppressive therapy. I do wish you the best of luck with this situaion, and look out for your heart!
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