Dating With Herpes 

I'm considering getting involved dating with herpes with a woman who has had genital herpes for 20 years and is on suppressive therapy with Valtrex. Would having the virus this long make transmission any less likely? If we avoid having sex during herpes outbreaks and prodrome - is there a good chance of avoiding transmission (we would be in a LTR and won't be using condoms)? If I did get it, would I get a milder form since she has had it for 20 years - or no relation to that? She claims she has never passed it onto a partner – not quite sure how anyone could be sure of that with the varying symptoms people get! Also if she has only HSV-2 of the genitals, could I get oral sores if I perform oral sex on her?

Every person's situation is different. For most people, the longer they have the herpes virus, the less frequent their symptoms and presumably, the less they shed the virus asymptomatically. But to know about your friend specifically, she'd have to get tested daily to see how often, if at all, the virus may be present on the skin. That's not terribly practical.

As for how you might react to the herpes virus if you were to get it, that's also totally dependent on how YOUR body deals with it, and has nothing to do with how HER body deals with it. Most people with herpes have few or mild or even no symptoms, such that they don't even know they have it to begin with. Stats show that about 25% of US adults already have the virus for genital herpes, but up to 90% of them don't even know it! That means that most people with herpes don't know it and are sleeping with partners and not taking any special precautions. Most people also already carry the virus for oral herpes, although most only display symptoms rarely. One has a stigma, the other does not, but both types of herpes are very common and can appear either genitally or orally. It's more common that oral herpes is transmitted to a partner's genitals during oral sex, than the other way around.

Dating With Herpes

So if your friend knows they have herpes, is taking Valtrex, and you are using condoms all the time, and making sure to avoid sexual contact if there are symptoms coming on...then you are probably safer than if you're just sleeping with someone who has herpes but doesn't know it, and isn't doing anything about it.

Heck, you probably already have oral herpes, and might even already have genital herpes and not know it. Have you been tested? If not, go to your doctor know and ask for one of the new and very reliable herpes blood tests for HSV1 and HSV2. That's the only way to know for sure if you have or don't have the virus for oral or genital herpes. Most doctors don't give the blood test for herpes unless their patient specifically requests it. So chances are, you have never been tested. So go and get tested.

Then, relax. Herpes is just a skin condition that most people manage pretty easily. Genital herpes carries a stupid stigma because it's sexually transmitted. It's really not much different from oral herpes, which most of us get as kids from kissing, etc. And most of us, even though we carry the oral herpes virus, don't break out in cold sores all the time. But it really just depends on how your unique body reacts to such viruses. Everyone is different.

So, if you really like this person and you are taking all the recommended precautions, you are pretty safe. Remember, sex is messy and is never 100% risk free, even if the other person doesn't have herpes. There are plenty of other STD's out there. New partners should always get tested before sleeping together. You can't treat something if you don't know you have it!