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Avatar universal

hsv-1 disclosure

I am a female in my late 20s and was diagnosed with genital hsv-1 last summer.  Based on testing, it was clear that it had been transmitted to me (like so many others) through oral sex with a boyfriend.

I have had one (clear) recurrent outbreak in the past year and have done a lot of research and know all the standard lines: genital hsv-1 is associated with fewer outbreaks and less asymptomatic shedding because it is not in it's site of preference, most genital hsv-1 comes from oral sex, a significant percentage of the population has hsv-1 already (I've read 60-80%) with many acquiring it in childhood, having hsv-1 in one location reduces the chance you can get it in another location, genital-genital transmission of hsv-1 is possible but unlikely.

I understand (and am irritated with) the commonly held social standard that everyone who tests positive for any kind of hsv should disclose to any/all partners...all the time...period.  This is irriating as a HIGH percentage of people have oral hsv-1, plenty of whom have no idea (including my exboyfriend who had never had a coldsore)...and there is never the expectation that someone who knows that have hsv-1 orally will disclose to partners prior to kissing.  For example, if someone who knows they have oral hsv-1 (with or without symptoms) said, "I don't disclose my hsv status to partners" no one would gasp in horror or start lecturing.  Even though MOST genital hsv-1 is aquired from someone with oral hsv-1, somehow the person with the less contageous (though more stigmatized version) is somehow bound by this "ethical oblication" to disclose.

I am a caring and responsible person who obviously doesn't want to pass this to anyone...though I also feel it isn't and shoudln't be viewed as traumatizing and earth shattering as people do.

So, what is my question?  I want to be responsible, but I also want to enjoy a "normal" sex life the way everyone else does...including those who are ignorant about their own status or people who "just get pesky cold sores."  I will obviously make up my own decision about disclosing, but am interested in what other people think:

So here it is: If I have casual sex with a guy (i.e. no long term relationship, no deep meaningful talks, etc.) and I a) make sure to avoid sex during an obvious outbreak, b) take antiviral medication to reduce outbreaks and asymptomatic shedding (which are rare as is), and c) USE A CONDOM (obviously as I would want to protect myself as well) - would it be safe to say that the risk of transmission is nearly microscopic?  Yes, possible, but highly highly unlikely?  Do people really feel like 100% disclosure is really the only way to be a moral and responsible person even if all efforts are made to protect this person...from this extremely common virus...which said guy statistically speaking is already likely to have?
32 Responses
Avatar universal
I have hsv1 though sadly i am not sure if it is oral or genital.
After testing positive for hsv1 at 30 years old and growing up in a house hold with family members who got cold sores i had mixed emotions. Is hsv1 really a big deal?  Technically probably not.
I then thought if i had a choice to be hsv free and not obsess over countless hours on the internet about hsv i would certainly go that route.
You chances of catching hsv2 or even hiv for that matter might be statistically low but would you like to know before putting yourself in that situation? Maybe maybe not.
I made the decision to tell the person i am dating. After being informed of the facts she is cool with it and we have an amazing sex life. In fact with this weighing on my mind while being with her i don't think our sex life would be as good without me getting that weight off my shoulder.
Sex is fun and natural, i can attest to having a pretty wide range of partners over the years i guess statistics caught ul with me :) Sex can also change your life in a blink of an eye.
Just my two cents.
Avatar universal
By the way i completely agree with you about the double standard associated with oral versus genital hsv1. If anything you are probably better off having a non oral infection!
897535 tn?1295210035
I assume you had a swab/culture of symptoms that determined it was genital HSV1?

That being said, I have genital HSV1 (confirmed with a swab/culture) that was transmitted to me by my partner who has it orally. I've had it almost two years now, and it really is a non-event in my life. I'm single again, in my 40's, and have dated - and yes, I've had to tell that I have genital HSV1. So far it's not been an issue. My sex life has never, ever been impacted by my genital HSV1. And while it might, at this point I don't have time for anyone who is not able to deal with such an incidental thing, in the scheme of crappy stuff in relationships!

As to telling, I always look at it like this: if a man knowingly had genital HSV1 and chose to not tell you, and had sex with you, how would you feel? I think it's safe to say you probably would be somewhere between upset and freaked out. Honesty is always the best policy. That being said, most folks who become educated about HSV will most likely realize you are worth it and the herpes is easily managed. You partner would need to find out their status as well, and as you may have read, more than 1/2 the adult population has oral HSV1, giving them significant protection against getting it genitally.

The fact that you know it's a lower risk to transmit genital HSV1 (especially using condoms and taking suppressive therapy - which by the way there are no stats it reduces shedding - I don't take it suppressively) makes it all the easier to tell someone, in my opinion. Don't play into the stigma yourself - you're making a huge assumption that a man will ditch you for herpes. And if he does, lord knows you're worth a LOT more than that anyway.
Avatar universal
Thank you for your comments. I have been living with HSV (not sure which one) since 1995 but became "single" again last Nov. and the burden of knowing I will have to share this with my next significant other has been overwhelming at times (leading to many tears).  I sometimes feel sorry for myself because I know I am such a good person and can offer so much to the right man.  At times I have been really depressed, other times I just carry on.  Sometimes I am even happy despite the burden.  After reading your post, I have great hope that the right guy will look beyond this problem and accept me for all of my other good qualities.  Still, I am so scared to bring this up. But, I will tell him when the time is right, and if he dumps me over it, I will read your post over and over until I feel better about myself, then I will carry on with head held high.  Thank you.
897535 tn?1295210035
Consider starting your own post as well. It helps us to respond to you personally, and find out more about your herpes diagnosis.

Here's also a great post about Telling a Partner:

http://www.medhelp.org/user_journals/show/15788/Help--How-to-talk-to-your-partner-about-STDs
Avatar universal
Thank you for your gentle and non-judgemental response.  Most times someone with any kind of genital herpes sugests the possibility of not disclosing, people respond as if you said you were contemplating drowning babies.

My diagnosis was confirmed by swab.  I appreciate your sharing your story...I think it is helpful for people in the community to hear about people having a normal sex life.  About a year after my diagnosis with my ex, and about 4 months after our breakup, I actually did have sex with a new partner.  Because we had been friends first and talked a lot, I did tell him...he kind of obsessively researched for awhile and when he realized how COMMON HSV-1 was and how rare it was to trasmit genital HSV1 (particularly with the added protection of a condom), he NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER.

I agree that someone who wants to be in a committed relationship with me is likely not going to have a problem with it.  But I'm talking about a night/weekend of fun.  I know it's not considered ladylike for a women to just be interested in sex with someone....but I assure you this is what I'm talking about.

In response to your question about how would I feel if a man knowingly had genital HSV-1 and had sex with me anyway: Honestly, a man with oral HSV-1 (unknowingly) had oral sex with me.  How do I feel about that?  In the beginning I wanted to blame him.  After all, it wasn't fair...I now had an "incurable STD" and he had the equivalent of asymptomatic cold sores (I don't know if I mentioned that he had never actually had a cold sore).  But NOW the way I view it is a) it's a common issue that in a lot of cases in unavoidable (most people get HSV1 as kids and no one thinks of them as gross or - again - needing to dislcose) and b) I was just as much responsible.  I am a grownup and had consensual sex...True, I didn't know he had it.  But most grownups know that with sex (even protected sex) comes with SOME risk.  Most people aren't tested for herpes...because they don't "need" to be if they're symptomatic...even though most people transmit it when they don't have symptoms.  And these people do not "disclose" prior to sex: "Hey, I've never been tested for herpes, so though there's a chance I could have it, in which case there's a risk you could get it.  Still want to sleep with me?"

I'm not trying to be flippant.  But the truth is: I have it...and I don't think it's that big of a deal in the end.  If I were talking about a contagious LIFE THREATENING disease, that'd be a different story.  But herpes is not.  And the social pressure to put 100% of the responsibility on the unlucky people with symptoms, then all the people who are untested or simply people who chose to engage in sex believing themselves to be uninfected...is absurd.  It is based on the social stigma and I think it should be challenged.


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