If you’re wondering whether you can still have a fulfilling sex life with herpes, the answer is, yes. Getting diagnosed with genital herpes can seem like a harsh reality for many people since there is no cure for this sexually transmitted disease (STD). The other devastating factors are the risk of transmission through skin-to-skin contact and being forced to deal with recurrent breakouts of herpes sores or blisters throughout your lifetime. While there is no cure for oral or genital herpes, avoiding unprotected sex and taking an anti-viral drug are effective ways to lower the risk of transmitting the herpes virus and control recurrent flare-ups.
4 Tips for Having Sex with Herpes
Genital herpes or HSV-2 is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2. It is also common in the US, affecting more than one in every six people between the ages of 14 to 49. Once the infection occurs, the virus enters the body and remains in the nerve cell for life. It can then be transmitted through oral, vaginal, or anal sex or even mere contact with infected skin. However, having sex with herpes is not as complicated as it may seem. The best things you can do is follow safe practices like telling your partner, tracking your symptoms, and knowing when to avoid sex. More importantly, taking the following precautions can protect you and your partner without sacrificing sexual pleasures.
1. Take a Herpes Drug to Control Outbreaks
Focusing on getting treated should be your top priority in controlling the herpes symptoms and maintaining your health. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), HSV-2 causes an average of four further outbreaks a year after the initial infection. Although they become less severe and occur less frequently with time, antiviral drugs can be prescribed to suppress the symptoms or reduce the number of yearly outbreaks. Certain drugs are designed to be taken as soon as you feel the symptoms coming on. If you already have a prescription filled, it is important to take the medication as prescribed by your doctor.
2. Always Use a Latex Condom
You should consider using a condom once you’re ready to resume your sex life or after taking a relationship break to understand the impact of herpes on your future romance. You should also avoid having sex during the initial outbreak of symptoms. In fact, unprotected sex, whether or not herpes symptoms are present, places your partner at risk of getting the infection. Having an enjoyable sex life with herpes therefore means always using a latex condom for vaginal, anal and oral sex. Oral or tongue condoms are also available for performing oral sex. Note, however, that condoms do not guarantee 100% protection. The virus can still infect areas around the mouth and genital not protected by the condom.
3. Get It On with Mutual Masturbation
Having sex with herpes can be as erotic and exciting when you and your partner perform mutual masturbation. There is almost a zero percent chance of transmitting the virus this way. You can masturbate each other simultaneously, one after the other, or masturbate yourselves alongside each other. Masturbation can be done using the hands, dildo or vibrator based on your preference. One of the most important things to do is to wash your hands, and sex toys, thoroughly with warm soapy water before and after mutual masturbation. Also, do not touch your bodily fluids or sores before touching your partner.
4. Keep a Watchful Eye for Signs of an Outbreak
Not everyone experiences recurrent herpes flare-ups. If you’re not that fortunate, that’s okay. Paying attention to your body can help you take the necessary precautions. For example, you may feel a burning, itching, or tingling sensation at the site of the initial infection. This is usually followed by blisters that will turn to sores then scab and heal. The risk of infecting a partner with oral or genital herpes is high throughout this period.
Therefore, it is best to avoid kissing, vaginal, anal, and oral sex altogether during this time even if there are no visible symptoms. You should also take your medication right away if you’re being treated with an antiviral drug, such as valacyclovir that suppresses the oncoming symptoms. Suppressive valacyclovir therapy has proven to significantly reduce the risk of HSV-2 transmission and shorten the length of the outbreaks.
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There is a negative stigma attached to genital herpes that may make you believe that having a sex life with herpes is impossible. But there is no need to panic or give up on romance. In reality, you can have an enjoyable sexual relationship regardless if you have HSV-1 oral herpes or HSV-2. The most important thing is to control the outbreaks, never have unprotected sex, and find other safe ways to enjoy intimacy.