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Asymptomatic Herpes Type 1 - ahhh!


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Hi Everyone - First post - I'm dying for someone to talk to. I'm 24/m/straight and go to grad school in NYC. I got tested for herpes about two months ago because the last two people I had been sexually active with told me that they had suffered a breakout, and tested positive for Type 1. The first was a former long-term gf who I had unprotected sex with (and everything in between) like a zillion times. Right after we broke up (on good terms) she told me she had suffered a genital breakout. I was ignorant of anything herpes and didn't think much of it. The other girl was a more casual relationship I got into right after my breakup. We had performed oral sex on each other several times, but never did anything more than that. After like three weeks, she told me she had suffered an oral breakout. Once I realized there was a pattern, I kind of freaked out and got tested, and came back negative for Type 2 but positive for Type 1.

 

My problem is that I never suffer anything that comes close to an outbreak. Ever. No tingles, no red bumps, definitely no sores; no nothing. (I guess some folks would say that's a pretty good problem to have). I've done a fair share of web surfing, and I believe the term for this is Asymptomatic, because I don't suffer any symptoms. But I could still be contagious when the virus sheds. My doctor told me it is impossible to determine where on my body I have it (oral or genital), unless he can take a sample from an outbreak; but if I never have an outbreak, I'll never know!

 

So here's what has been spinning around and around in my head the last several weeks. If I have Type 1 oral, that's no big deal, right? It seems like a pretty good number of people have Type 1 oral, and there is less stigma than genital (for better or for worse). But if I have Type 1 oral, and I'm asymptomatic, and therefore have no indication as to what my cycle is, or when the virus is shedding, does that mean I can never kiss a girl again, ever, with disclosing to her first?? Jeeze, how am I ever going to be able to do that?? I understand the disclosure conversation in the context of a budding relationship, but in my experience, sharing a kiss comes a lot earlier on the relationship timeline than the point where most people are comfortable disclosing, right?

 

Alternatively, I might have Type 1 genital. I almost wish I did, because that would be a little easier to manage. I could wear condoms, avoid oral sex :/, and not have to disclose until a later point in the relationship timeline (like, when my penis comes out, which would presumably be at a point where i'm a little more comfortable disclosing).

 

But I'll never know which one I have, so what am I supposed to do!? How can I tell a girl who I just met that I definitely have Type 1 herpes orally or genitally, but it will be Russian Roulette finding out which one it exactly is? The uncertainty is killing me - I'm a little bit of a control freak, and this is something I have no control over. Help!

 

 

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Welcome yankees1234! First off, yes, you're totally correct. There is virtually NO stigma for oral herpes, interestingly enough. The stigma happens to be of the "below the belt" variety. Both are different strains of the same exact virus … So this is the crux of quite an interesting discussion about disclosure: 80% of Americans 14-49 have HSV-1 oral herpes; 16% of Americans 14-49 have HSV-2 genital herpes. (Interestingly enough, out of all the new genital herpes cases, 50% of them are caused from passing HSV-1 from lips to genitals via oral sex.) So, the question then becomes: Who is responsible for telling/asking? The person who has it, or the person who doesn't?

 

I get that if you are in the minority of Americans who have genital herpes, the responsibility for telling potential sexual partners would fall in your lap (innuendo intended). But on the other hand, if the overwhelming majority of Americans have oral herpes, then mathematically speaking, the chances of anyone you happen to be swappin' spit with having it is SUPER high. Wouldn't it mean on this side of the coin that the responsibility falls on the minority of people who DON'T have oral herpes to ask anyone they kiss if they do have it?

 

Here's a semi-weak metaphor to (hopefully) drive the point home: If there's an 80% chance your car will get dented if you park on the mean streets of NY, will you be surprised when your paint job is a bit chipped? You parked your damn car in NY! You knew what you were getting into! ;)

 

Responsibility lies in both camps to protect one another, and it's ultimately what you feel comfortable with. But my suggestion? No need to disclose asymptomatic oral herpes. Everyone and their momma's got it. It's a virus of the masses. And for those few people who don't have oral herpes yet, they will probably get it soon (again, mathematically speaking); if they want to keep their car's paint job serene, they should keep that sucka parked in the garage. ;)

 

But hey, this is just my humble opinion out there in the ether ... what does everyone else think?

Notes:

  • My mother is now in hospice with end-stage cancer, so I am at her house a lot these days helping where I can until she passes. Thank you in advance for understanding if I am not as quick to respond as I normally would be. This is a precious and bittersweet time …
  • 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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It's interesting that there is such a disparity in the social stigma toward HSV-1/oral herpes vs. genital. My doctor was quite emphatic that herpes is herpes is herpes. There is no "good" herpes or "bad" herpes.

 

I'm not saying that to really weigh in on whether disclosure of asymptomatic HSV-1 is necessary. It just frustrates me that so many people have the virus and have no clue, and there is an astonishing amount of ignorance about the fact that if you get "cold sores" or test positive for HSV-1 antibodies, you have herpes.

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  • 1 month later...

Yankee i also live near nyc and am in the exact same boat. no symptoms. but just have been told by my doctor that I have herpes type 1, my doctor says oh you have you know cold sores, she brushed it off like it was nothing and let me go on my way, as a matter of a fact she told me on the phone. she gave me no info on what i need to know what it is that i have , etc. i have been a google mad woman and now have a ton of info. it bothers me how this is a big dark secret when it really shouldn't be. if more people talked about it, it wouldn't be filled with so much shame. for me i am dating someone who has it on their nose. so i can potentially have down below ( from oral) or on the face, id assume my nose as well from kissing, we bump noses, her nose could potentially touch the top of genitals ( i am female as well) . idk I've never had anything so idk if i have it on the face or down below. and not knowing bothers me too. a lot actually. my question is can i go my whole life with NO outbreak? will i even know the difference if its acne or an outbreak, or razor rash below or an outbreak. i am going to see a dermatologist do you think they will have a better knowledge then my regular doctor, or would a gyno. i feel like my regular doctor was an idiot, no offense,but how do you tell someone they have this and give them NO info. or try to down play it by saying its just cold sores? any who any and all info is greatly appreciated.

 

i have been researching so much so i know lots of info that i didn't know say 5 days ago but i still am unsure of a few things

 

1) can i go my whole life with no outbreak, there for i won't ever know if i have it on my genitals or my face.

 

2) will i confuse it with acne, or razor burn or will i def know when it happens ?

 

3) are dermatologist more knowledgeable about it, i feel like my doctor just assumes its on the face and shrugged it off. which is so ignorant, she should have told me it could be on my gentials too, it bothers me how doctors can be so ignorant in educating their patents.

 

4) i read somewhere lets say i have it on my face, that i can't get type 1 on my gentials, is thats true? or vise versa, that once you have it one place your body makes antibodies to protect you from getting it other places?

 

i think thats all the questions i have lol

 

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In the doctor's defense (and actually in society's eyes, too), it's not actually a big deal. HSV1 is the strain of herpes that prefers the oral region, so it causes what are commonly known as cold sores on the lips. 80% of Americans 14-49 have oral herpes, HSV-1. If you DON'T have HSV-1, you're in the extreme minority. And yes, you are at risk of your girlfriend spreading herpes to your genitals if she gets oral herpes (cold sores) — and you're at risk of spreading it to her genitals, too. (In fact, 50% of new genital herpes cases are caused from people with oral herpes going down on their partners. Little known fact, and a sign of our ignorant times.) To answer your numbered questions:

 

1) You're right about this. This is the interesting thing about getting a positive blood test without ever having an actual physical outbreak. The site of your viral shedding is unknown. Even without an actual physical outbreak, you can still shed the virus and pass it on. But it's said that 80-90% of people who have herpes don't know they have it, so in a way you're in the gray area between those people and someone who knows exactly what's up. Tell your girlfriend about it and that there's a chance you could spread it, but most likely she gave it to you anyway, so it's all a crapshoot when it comes to how to navigate this situation.

 

2) Yes, people confuse it with razorburn/acne all the time! Of course, an outbreak tends to start off as small bumps before it scabs over, but sometimes you won't notice that part and you'll only notice the scabs. That's why the denial of it can last for so long. But it is different if you pay attention. An outbreak, no matter how small, will have a tingly sensation associated with it. It will feel more tender. It is different. And it just takes paying attention. Also, if you notice something that you think might be an outbreak, you can go to the doctor immediately and get it swabbed and they'll know for sure.

 

3) It depends on the doctor or dermatologist. Since herpes isn't seen as a health risk, simply an annoyance, people in the health field don't pay much attention to it. It really isn't a big deal to them. They don't see the psychological ramifications of the stigma, only the very minor physical symptoms. I'd go to the health clinic where they're much more likely to see more cases of STDs vs. a regular doctor.

 

4) I don't know where you read that, but it's untrue. Herpes spreads skin-to-skin via breaks in the skin. For example, if you have an outbreak on your lip, scratch it, then scratch your genitals, you can transfer it from one part of the body to another. Yes, your body does produce antibodies against it, but that's not 100%. It's not that you have to become super paranoid about spreading it all over your body, but if you do end up having a physical outbreak, don't touch it. And if you do, wash your hands (soap kills herpes on contact).

 

Does that help?

Notes:

  • My mother is now in hospice with end-stage cancer, so I am at her house a lot these days helping where I can until she passes. Thank you in advance for understanding if I am not as quick to respond as I normally would be. This is a precious and bittersweet time …
  • 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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yeah she def knows. i thanked her for the gift that keeps on giving lol. she felt bad, but we both knew it was possible starting this relationship. she says she got hers working at a grocery with a cold so her nose was all broken out and she must have touched it with the virus and thats how she got it, thats what she says,or thinks.

 

for me idk which way i got it.

 

is it possible i will never have a outbreak ever?

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Yep, it's possible you will NEVER have an actual outbreak. I've heard of cases like that. For me personally, it took years before I had my first outbreak. And even if that happens, you'll still have viral shedding to keep in mind, so you're not totally in the clear. I say that not to make you paranoid, but to make sure you're aware of the facts of it. A lot of people assume "no outbreak" to "no way to spread herpes" and that's just not the case.

Notes:

  • My mother is now in hospice with end-stage cancer, so I am at her house a lot these days helping where I can until she passes. Thank you in advance for understanding if I am not as quick to respond as I normally would be. This is a precious and bittersweet time …
  • 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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yeah def, i knew of that going into the relationship that that was how i would catch it, makes sense cuz even with us being very careful here i am on a herpes form , prob caught from passionate kisses. oh those kisses, maybe i should have been more delicate lol. oh well. thus is life. i can let it ruin my day or accept it and move on. accepting seems like such a better option considering it has had no effect on our relationship in 2 years, other then that bitch stealing my concealer lol . i told her to keep it. diamonds are not forever. herpes is!

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