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Dating a woman with GHSV2

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I just started dating a woman with GHSV2 a few months ago and would love to get some advice on a few separate topics that weren’t covered in the fact sheets.

Is there any research into the effectiveness of washing your genitals after sex? I’m a guy and it seems like an easy win if I can reduce my chance of contracting genital herpes by washing my genitals with an antiviral solution like hibiclens either before or after sex. If so, I’d love to know the recommended antiviral solution / timing that I can follow.

Is there any research into the female to male infection rate when the male is circumcised? The following research paper indicates that male circumcision reduces the transmission rate by 28%, but I’d like to confirm with this forum: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/male-circumcision-reduces-risk-genital-herpes-hpv-infection-not-syphilis.

Once you contract HSV2 either orally or genitally, can you contract it in other locations? The following link says no (except in the rare case that you contract HSV in both locations at the same time), but I’d like to confirm with this forum: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/herpes-hsv1-and-hsv2/genital-herpes.

The woman I’m seeing contracted herpes after having unprotected sex during a one-night stand and has otherwise practiced safe sex throughout her life. I believe her, but have trouble reconciling this with the fact sheet. Sure, shedding occurs ~30% of the time, but there is still only a 10% chance of male to female transmission over the course of a year of unprotected sex according to the fact sheet. Did she just get really unlucky? Is it likely that her partner had an active outbreak? I’m asking because I’d like to have unprotected sex with her at some point and want to make sure I’m interpreting the statistics correctly.

My partner gets nauseous when taking Valtrex so she is not comfortable taking it on a daily basis. Any advice for dealing with this? Do the side effects get better over time? Are there alternative therapies with similar benefits / fewer side effects? And if she’s willing to take Valtrex occasionally, how many hours before sex should she take it? 12 hours? 24 hours? Does it even matter if she isn't taking it on a daily basis?

And more generally, do you all have any advice for dealing with this on an emotional level? It puts a pretty big strain on the relationship. I have trouble looking past the stigma, especially since she contracted it by practicing unsafe sex - something I have never done. It feels like I am being punished for her mistake. I also have trouble pacing myself in the relationship since the stakes feel higher and it makes me question whether she is “the one” earlier than normal.

Thank you so much for any and all help!

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Great questions. Thank you for sharing your situation and asking such great questions we can all benefit from talking about! 🙂 

1. Soap and Water will do the trick!  If you are concerned about transmission, washing off your genitals with water and soap (like shower soap) would be enough. Using the hibiclens may not be a great idea to use repeatedly on the same sensitive area like the genitals because of the openings there (urethra). Also, I am not sure if it kills HSV; it kills bacteria, fungi, and some viruses, but I am unsure if it includes HSV.  I would definitely talk to a doctor about using the product! 

2. The NIH is a reliable resource and that article is peer reviewed, so I would say that the 28% info is trustworthy! In general, being circumcised helps reduce infection of any tyoe because bacteria cannot be caught in the "hood" of the penis. It is easier to keep the penis clean as well. 

3. Yes, it is possible to contract HSV in the other region of the body if you have it in one region. For example, you can have genital HSV-2 and contract it orally. However, the risk is low. Risk factors include the following:

a. It hasn't been 12+ weeks of exposure and you have not build up antibodies to protect your from autoinnoculation. It takes 12+ weeks to build up sufficient antibodies to help reduce the risk of autoinnoculation (giving it to yourself). However, it is unlikely you would give yourself HSV-2 from your genitals to your mouth because that would mean you are touching your genitals and the sores and then licking your hand... and common sense obviously would tell us not to lick your hand if you just touched sores! Passing it from mouth to genital would basically mean the same thing; you are touching an oral sore and then touching the genital area. 

b. You are immunocompromised or are on immunosuppressant medication. Those who have an autoimmune illness or take medication that lowers their immune system are at a greater risk for contracting the same strain of HSV in two+ places on the body. 

c. You are continuing to be intimate with your partner when they have open sores/are virally shedding. Although you both would have the same strain, the chance of contracting it elsewhere increases if you are touching open sores or sores that are still healing, since the virus is shedding and "awake". In general, it is the safest and most comfortable idea (sores hurt!) to abstain from intimacy until the sores have fully healed for 7+ days. 

4. Statistics can be tricky! Statistics sometimes tell us about the chance something could happen, and even though it is low, it is 100% still possible! That 10% data fact leaves out SO many variables; maybe the past partner had an active sore. Maybe his viral load was large. In general, vaginas are more likely to contract HSV because they have a larger surface area of mucous membranes, where HSV likes to enter the body through. That 10% is an average. There are always outliers (data that does not align near the average). 

5. Antivirals are helpful, but they are not for everyone. Not everyone takes antivirals. Some people take them as a suppressive measure; a way to lessen the chance that an outbreak occurs. There are others who take them to help an outbreak heal when it happens. Some people never take them. Basically, everyone has a right to chose what works for them. If she is curious about antivirals she could try one of the other two types (Acyclovir or Famcyclovir) but of course this is her choice, and it is between her and her doctor. In general, suppressive antivirals reduce the risk by about 1/2. When antivirals are used with condoms, the risk cuts in half again, as shown on the fact sheet 🙂 

6.  Who Are We to Cast Judgement?  Honestly, she probably feels terrible about this enough. Talking to anyone about H is vulnerable and often painful. She obviously trusts you, which is wonderful. Just as she respects you and shared this with you, she deserves respect and acceptance as well. She may look back on that choice and feel such regret and sadness, and I am sure she has had to do a lot of emotional work to get over the herpes emotional hurdle. I have had HSV since I was 19; I dated someone older who was very mean and I should have ended things sooner. If I would have, I don't think I would have H. However, my reality is I DO have H, and it doesn't make me a bad person. It doesn't make her a bad person either! H is a common virus, and nothing more. Society assigns stereotypes and judgement to H, but that doesn't make  them true! Judging is disrespectful and just incorrect and has no factual basis. Society created those stereotypes and of course society has the ability to dismantle them. And that dismantling starts with people on this forum, and it starts with you! 

Remember, society has supported a lot of stupid ideas that were disproven and were unethical... lack of women's rights, the unregulated meat-packing industry in the early 1900s, the idea that it was perfectly safe to preform surgery with unwashed medical equipment... so just because there are societally-constructed ideas out there about H or people with H, don't get caught up with them! They are founded upon myth, fear, and hate, and that is NOT a solid foundation! Build your own opinions based on fact; H doesn't define someone, and sometimes tough things (meaning H) happen to good people but that doesn't make the person bad (in fact, it often makes them stronger, more compassionate, and wiser!).

I hope this helps. Reach out with any questions! 

Blessings to you and your partner,






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Hi there- the only thing I can speak to is her way of contracting HSV-2 because I contracted it in the exact same way. I got out of a very long, very serious relationship and made the mistake of having unprotected sex ONE time with ONE guy, and now I carry the virus. It happens. 

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Hi there- the only thing I can speak to is her way of contracting HSV-2 because I contracted it in the exact same way. I got out of a very long, very serious relationship and made the mistake of having unprotected sex ONE time with ONE guy, and now I carry the virus. It happens. 

Actually, I would like to speak to one other thing as well- it’s hard to tell via text with no emotions, but your words regarding her carrying HSV-2 read as judgmental and unaccepting. Just because she had unprotected sex one time doesn’t mean she’s a bad or immoral person. Life isn’t black and white, and as humans, mistakes are made. To me, it seems like you would be better off letting her go and allowing her to find a partner who will not hold the stigma of this extremely common virus, or the fact that she had an unprotected one-night stand, over her head and simultaneously you can find a partner you are more accepting of and sexually comfortable with. Just an internet stranger’s perspective 🙂

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