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Girlfriend Has Genital Herpes (HSV-1)

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My new girlfriend informed me she was diagnosed with genital HSV-1 when she was sixteen. She had two flare ups and then it never appeared again. I’ve experienced one cold sore in my life (orally) when I was around that age, and it never appeared again either. My girlfriend before this constantly had HSV-1 oral flare ups, but I never developed them myself despite their fairly frequent appearances on her. What does this mean for our limitations as a couple? I’ve read in some places that if you have oral HSV-1, you can’t contract genital HSV-1 because the virus only nests in one location. Will I get sores if I have vaginal sex with her, protected or unprotected? What happens if we have oral sex? I’m having a hard time making sense of the information I’ve found online.

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Hello and glad you found us! I have to keep this brief as I am trying to get out of my office but the good news is you have no need to be concerned. You have Oral HSV1 .. she has genital HSV1 - so you both have the antibodies to the virus already meaning it's very very unlikely you would get it genitally (not totally impossible, but the odds are so low I wouldn't sweat it).


However, if you two split you need to know you could give someone HSV1 genitally because the HSV1 virus CAN head south.... half of the new genital herpes cases are HSV1 from Oral sex. Thats very likely how she got it.....


Thats the short version - if you have more questions I or someone else will get on here later and answer them for you :)


Peace ;)


BTW, just to make sure, confirm with her that she has HSV1 and not HSV2.... otherwise that changes things...

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Hey C_B! Welcome. Good on you to come here to get all your facts straight.


First things first, download these handouts and read them over. They'll give you the foundational facts and figures to put everything into perspective:




It's true that since your body has built up HSV-1 antibodies that there is less of a chance of getting genital HSV-1 from having sex with your girlfriend, but there is always a risk. That's not to make you paranoid; it's just the truth. But the good news? The risk is quite small. Considering that transmitting herpes overall (including HSV-1 and HSV-2) falls in the 4% range when transmitting to a male is concerned (less mucous membrane on the penis, you see) — this part of the "disclosure" handout above: http://screencast.com/t/g3vwy9Xf — and viral shedding is much lower for genital HSV-1 than genital HSV-2 — this other part: http://screencast.com/t/9Pzc4Zxx — then the chances of her passing genital HSV-1 to your genitals are quite low. Again, please don't read that as zero. You can't get 1% of herpes. You either get herpes or you don't. But the *chances* of getting it are super low. Add in great communication with you and your girlfriend about when she might feel an outbreak coming on and it's even lower still. I was in a 3 year relationship with my last girlfriend and she never got herpes and we were having unprotected sex with me taking daily suppressive therapy. And there are a lot of those types of stories from our forum members where their partner never got herpes from them.


Does this help? Any other questions, just ask! We're here for you. We all want you and your girlfriend to have awesome, connected sex without any of that pesky paranoia floating around. ;)

This content 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. 

Helpful resources:

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Thank you so much for the quick response! I have been incredibly confused by what I’ve found online, and this forum is really a blessing. Thank you!


She was unsure of this when we started dating - and I asked her to go to her doctor and confirm which type it was. She tested positive for the HSV-1 strain and negative for HSV-2. (Considering what she told me about her history prior to meeting me, I was assuming it was the 1 strain. She didn't even know that was possible, and her doctor unfortunately was not very helpful in explaining things.) I have never been tested for HSV-1, but I did get that single cold sore years ago. I am HSV-2 negative, and we are both negative for all other STIs.


Should I go get tested for the HSV-1 strain to confirm that I carry the antibodies, or is that an unnecessary precaution? Just in case that one cold sore was something else? (Although, I don’t know what else that could have been. It looked like a cold sore, and half the people in my immediate family got it when I did.) Is it strange that it only happened once for me, and that it was just the one single sore in the corner of my mouth?


How likely is unlikely that I'll contract it? She is interested in going on birth control, and I’d like to have oral sex with her - but, I just wanted to know what dangers that entails? Am I more likely to get another oral cold sore, rather than anything genitally? Or is the risk more the latter? Is sex with protection verses without protection going to have the same risk (which, from what you said - is minimal?) because I've read that condoms are little help in protecting with the virus?


Thanks again!

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IMO, it doesn't hurt to know which one you have...then you know just what kind of precautions you need (or not) to take. Certainly sounds like you got oral herpes tho.


Am I more likely to get another oral cold sore, rather than anything genitally?


Nopr - you can't get "more" of the virus. If you have an OB after oral sex it will just be a coincidence (assuming that you did have a sold sore). And again - if you have HSV1, you don't need to use condoms to protect you from H.


HOWEVER, I'll tell you, if YOU don't want to be a father I'd use condoms even with your GF being on BC...esp at the point of the month when she *might* be cycling...take it from someone who is a Grandmother to a baby who was conceived with her Mama on BC ;) Men tend to put the whole burden of birth control on women because its easy for her to take a pill or whatever...but it's just as easy for her BC to fail, for her to forget a pill, or antibiotics or other meds may interfere with them. So if you are not ready to be a father, wrap it up, OK? In fact, given your GF has HSV1 - your risk of her getting pregnant is likely higher than you getting HSV1 from her given that you have it. Does that put it into perspective??? :)

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