Sexpert Q&A: Sex After Herpes Diagnosis

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Hi Yvonne, I was just diagnosed with HSV2. How serious is this? How do I date with it? Is my sex life over? I've read that it's actually pretty common, but that a lot of people don't know they have it. Try convincing a girl to sleep with you when you just told them you have herpes. Any advice would be appreciated. J

Dear J, Herpes is a viral infection caused by related strains of the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every five adolescents and adults has had the genital HSV (HSV2) infection. So if it makes you feel better, you've got plenty of company.

Having HSV is no picnic. While most people are unaware of their infections, when an outbreak occurs, the virus lets itself be known. Signs include sores and flu-like symptoms. A person who has an outbreak can expect several (as in 4 or 5) within a year. Yet these recurrences tend to decrease in frequency over time. While there is no treatment, antiviral medications can shorten and prevent outbreaks. Daily suppressive therapy for symptomatic herpes can also reduce the risk of transmission to a lover. A latex condom, when used consistently and correctly, can also reduce the risk of transmitting genital herpes. It is wisest to abstain from sexual contact during an outbreak to avoid transmission.

It is admirable that you want to be honest and forthright with your future sex partners. Having genital herpes can certainly cause distress for the person who is infected and their (potential) partner. That doesn't mean, however, that your sex life is over. First, know that this is an overwhelming issue and while it's personal, you can't take any reactions to it personally. It takes a lot of courage to share and people tend to appreciate how hard it is to divulge. They're also grateful that they've been informed. If a person doesn't want to sleep with you, they're rejecting the infection - not you.

In telling a partner about your status, it is wise to share before you become sexually intimate. You can calmly say something like, "I really like how things are going with us. So before we become intimate, we need to talk about safer sex and STDs. I mention this because I have herpes and feel strongly that you need to know this in protecting yourself should we choose to become more intimate..." Having herpes doesn't always affect one's sex life as much as initially feared. Just make sure you educate yourself about the disease, manage it well, and minimize its impact on your life. A support group may also help you to cope. The more you know about your infection, the easier it will be for you to share, for you to relieve any of your partner's fears, and to correct any myths or misinformation.

Dr. Yvonne KristAn Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of

Sexuality Source Inc.

She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."