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Eagle

Questions about shedding

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Hi everyone! I was just diagnosed with HSV2 two months ago and I'm still doing research to help prevent spreading to future partners. I read that it can not be transmitted if you don't have an outbreak but now I'm reading that there is still a possibility if the person with HSV is 'shedding.' 

I understand the concept of shedding after an outbreak but I'm not finding much information as to when I'm shedding without an outbreak or what symptoms I should look out for. 

If there are no symptoms, this concerns me with not protecting my future partners or enjoying play/unprotected sex without the risk of infecting someone else. (It's hard enough now having to have a disclosure conversation before making love.)  

I'm hearing stories of people having happy lives with their partners and having families (both of which I'm aiming for) but I'm confused as to how you make sure to keep your partner from getting infected. Any advice or credible information is SO appreciated. 

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Hello Eagle,

I have exactly the same question. My doctor told me that if there is not outbreaks I cannot infect and also that there is no need for me to take any medications. However I have read so much about this asyntomatic shedding that I don't know anymore what to do... If you find and answer let me know.

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Hi xiscaioss, my doctor told me the same thing. When I was first diagnosed, I was with a  partner right before my first outbreak. When I went to get a second opinion and ask questions to a doctor, he told me that I can't pass it along if I'm not showing symptoms and because my partner's immune system is strong, he would be OK. My partner was tested and his results were negative. 

I've done some research on shedding and I am unable to find anything that says how we can tell when we are shedding. I've also found conflicting information about this so I'm still unsure. Please keep me posted if you find anything as well. 

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Doctors have been getting this wrong for too long ... way before I even got herpes over a decade ago. 🤦‍♂️

Yes, you can transmit herpes when you aren’t having an outbreak and even with no symptoms. You won’t know when you are shedding. It’s called “asymptomatic viral shedding” since there are no detectable signs or symptoms when virus sheds.

Depending on which kind of herpes you have (HSV-1 or HSV-2) and where it presents (orally or genitally), it will shed at varying rates. Now don’t assume that you are shedding all the time and get paranoid about it either! It’s just sporadic and hard to pin down when it’s happening, but it does happen a small percentage of the time. 

Check out the fact sheets for the breakdown of those numbers. 

And here’s an article all about asymptomatic viral shedding: https://www.herpesopportunity.com/post/herpes-asymptomatic-viral-shedding

Let us know if you have any other questions! 


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Thank you so much for replying. This does cause me a bit of heartache because I feel that unprotected sex is now off the table. Without knowing when I'm shedding, there will be a chance I can pass this on to a partner. How do you have a healthy sex life with someone, enjoy unprotected sex, and not pass this on to them? 

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I thought exactly the same thing when I was first diagnosed! (Everyone has that fear when they find out about asymptomatic viral shedding, so you're not alone in that.) "AAAHH! I'm a walking disease factory that will pollute anyone and everyone I come in contact with! I'm dooooomed! AAAHH!" (at least that's what it sounded like in my head). 😛

But the truth is you have a few great things in your favor: 

  1. You actually are *aware* you have herpes, which makes you more aware of being careful and safe with your partner (80% of people who have herpes don't know they have it or are in denial – they are much less safe!) And since you'll disclose to partners, they will be aware of it, too, so both of you can share the responsibility of safety.
  2. If you take suppressive therapy, it cuts down the amount of viral shedding (and thus outbreaks) in half. If you wear condoms, it cuts it by another half, but whether you wear condoms or not is a discussion you and your partner have. It's all about risk/reward tolerance, which is entirely subjective.

I've been in a few relationships since contracting herpes over a decade ago. My girlfriends and I would have open conversations around when I would feel prodrome symptoms coming on or otherwise something felt "off" so we would play in other ways that didn't involve genital touching. At a certain point in our relationships, eventually the condoms would come off (it was mainly her decision always since she was the one navigating her own risk tolerance).

And during those times of actual outbreaks or prodrome symptoms, we'd get creative. We would focus on intimacy and not only on sex. Sex is a vehicle for intimacy, but it's not always the only way. It would honestly expand our horizons of what was possible (which would then give us more room to play in when sex was back on the table).

This video might help clarify what I'm getting at here: https://www.herpesopportunity.com/post/keeping-your-partner-herpes-free-can-be-super-sexy

I'm now married and have been with my wife for 6+ years. She hasn't gotten herpes yet. And we decided to not wear condoms pretty soon after we committed to each other. Which was a contribution to us now having a 3-year-old boy. 😉 (By the way, by me saying this, I'm not saying your experience will be the same; even though the risk is still small with viral shedding, you still disclose to all partners, have open conversations around sexual health, be careful as a responsibility ... but don't be paranoid about it! Paranoia disconnects. Care connects.)

So in short, life goes on. Embrace the inherent risk that comes with this through embracing deeper vulnerability with all your partners. This isn't the end. It's absolutely an experience you can use as leverage to bring you deeper into the intimacy you're truly wanting. It's not a big brick wall to intimacy and love; it's actually a doorway. And I'm not here to glorify herpes here ... It's not really about herpes. It's about herpes being an opportunity to embrace your deeper vulnerability.


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Thank you so much Eagle and mr_Hopp,

I am still having my ups and downs, sometimes I feel misarable sometimes I feel it is not  that bad. I think that doctors don't make it easier cause they don't give you accurate information and I believe opinions are divided.

A question I have also and I hope sombody could answer. My first outbreak was all in the pubic area, nothing in the penis until the very end when I got just some few spots.           So I was wondering if it is my pubis the one having this sheddding as well, or my penis and if so, condoms would not help at all. So just a thought that even using condoms if my pubis with the sweet get in contact with my SO vagina can she get the virus as well?            I was even thinking of making a "special underware" with a whole and using it together  with a condom (I don't know if you can picture the scene), and if it is what is needed in order to be safe I would not even mind, Do you think this would work?

Which part of my body can really shed the virus and which part doesn't, so that I know what I can touch or not? 

What if for example I am having a shower and just rubbing my body with my SO? There are aso chances to infect her?

I also do have doubts about the oral sex. If she does it she could get it in her mouth and throat? and even with condom if her face touches any other part not cover with the condom like my pubis, she can still get it?

I apologise, I know I am asking many questions but I am trying my best the know what I can and I cannot do and what is the safest.

Thank you so so so much! You can not even imagine how I do appreciate your help.

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