Super Hacks: Sleeping with someone who has herpes? Here’s what you need to know
Many people don't know, for example, that herpes is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with lesions
Your partner just told you that they have genital herpes. It’s not an unlikely scenario—one in six Americans has the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So what are your chances of getting it from them? They’re actually very slim—as long as you’re smart about it.
While no form of protection against genital herpes is totally foolproof, you can dramatically lower the odds of transmission with these easy steps, says Men’s Health sex advisor Debby Herbenick, Ph.D.
First, educate yourself on this disease and how it’s transmitted. Many people don’t know, for example, that herpes is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with lesions (which can sometimes appear in places a condom doesn’t cover) and skin that appears unaffected, as well as via contact between genital and oral secretions, according to the CDC. Actually, the most common way herpes is transmitted is from an infected partner who doesn’t have any visible sores.
You’ll also want to ask your partner if he or she would be willing to talk to their doctor about taking an antiviral medication, such as Valtrex. Research has shown that it reduces the odds of becoming symptomatic—as in, dealing with painful lesions—and it cuts the risk of transmission in half.
Finally, it’s important to start using condoms correctly and consistently. Even though they don’t provide complete protection against herpes, they will help significantly slash your risk, says Herbenick, who adds that a touch of lubricant outside the condom will make things feel better for both of you.