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Navigating a new relationship with herpes: How to move forward?

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My girlfriend and I are getting more serious in our relationship but have not been intimate. 

She recently told me that she was diagnosed with genital herpes 30 years ago. She has been taking medication for surpression. She said she was married for 15 of those 30 years after her diagnosis and she and her husband had unprotected sex (he knew of her diagnosis) for those 15 years. He was never infected. 

She also said that before her marriage but after her diagnosis she had unprotected sex with 4 partners who knew ahead of time of her diagnosis. None were infected. 

I am afraid of this virus but I care for her. It seems incredulous that her husband of 15 years was never infected. Could she have such a low virus count that she  is unlikely to pass this virus to partners?

How to move forward? I seem frozen. 


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It is possible to have a relationship where the virus does not spread.  The transmission rates are already so low plus taking the antiviral medication lowers the chances of transmission even more.  You could always use condoms or some type of protection as well to lower the risk even more.  

I have been in long relationships and have never passed this one to another person.  Just make sure that your girlfriend isn't having any pain, tinglings, blisters, sores or cuts in the area and if she is having an outbreak, just steer clear for 7-8 days after the outbreak heals.  

There will always be a smallish risk to getting this virus but taking precaution is always the way to go. 

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Hey there, PhotoEagle!

First off, congratulations on your relationship taking a deeper and more serious turn. That's such an exciting time, and it's wonderful to see your care and concern for your girlfriend.

I understand that learning about her genital herpes diagnosis can be a lot to process, especially when considering the potential risks involved. However, it's important to know that over time, the body typically gains better control over the virus and the shedding of the virus decreases significantly. In the first year after an initial herpes infection, there tends to be more shedding as the immune system is still adjusting. But for the majority of healthy individuals, the body's immune response improves over time, providing more and more protection. And since it's been over 30 years for her, it's safe to say her body has it under control and her viral shedding should be much lower than someone who is newly diagnosed. (That's not to say that she'll never have outbreaks, but that the immune system is just doing a better job at keeping the virus at bay.)

Like @AlliKat12, I want to assure you that it's entirely possible to be in a relationship with someone who has herpes and not contract the virus. Personally, I've been in a relationship with my wife since 2014, and we even made the decision to stop using protection while I continued to take daily suppressive therapy (Acyclovir). We now have a 6-year-old son, and my wife still does not have herpes. So, it's definitely possible to have a fulfilling relationship without transmitting the virus. Ironically, the biggest protection you have in this case is that she *knows* she has herpes and is aware of prodrome symptoms and can communicate with you if something feels "off" ... 80% of all people who have herpes don't know that they have it, which makes them the most likely to transmit the virus. 

That being said, it's important to acknowledge that there is still a small risk involved. However, as @AlliKat12 mentioned, the transmission rates are already quite low (especially for men), and with the added protection of antiviral medication and the use of condoms, the risk can be further reduced. In fact, if your girlfriend is on daily suppressive therapy and you use condoms, the risk of transmission to a penis is estimated to be around 1% per year. If you both decide not to use condoms, it would be around 2% per year of a risk for you. (To put that in perspective, there is a 2-15% chance of unintended pregnancy even when using condoms and a 1.8% chance of death whenever you're driving a car.)

To help you better understand the details of transmission and the associated risks, I recommend downloading the free handouts available here: https://www.herpesopportunity.com/lp/ebook ... They break down the information and give you a clearer picture of what you're dealing with.

Remember, communication and open dialogue with your partner are key. Discuss your concerns, ask questions, and make decisions together based on accurate information and what feels right for both of you.

Wishing you all the best in your relationship journey. Feel free to reach out if you have any more questions or need further support. You've got this!

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Note: This is for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute medical advice or diagnosis.
I'm not a medical professional, so please take this as friendly peer support. 

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  • mr_hopp changed the title to Navigating a new relationship with herpes: How to move forward?

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