ASHA's herpes message board continues to serve as an important source of information and emotional support for the thousands who visit. The board is a free, anonymous service that allows visitors to ASHA’s web site to share stories, ask questions and obtain support around all aspects of herpes. While in-person support groups are an essential resource, an online support forum offers immediate access, day or night, to individuals that might not have a local resource.
This issue, we want to share a conversation that was recently posted on the herpes board. You’re invited to join the discussions on the board as well.
"I was on this board a year ago after being diagnosed with herpes through a blood test; I was clueless that I had the virus due to having no apparent symptoms.
"I was single when I found out but recently have been dating this wonderful man: We really click! We've held off on sex as I struggled with finding a way to tell him about my diagnosis. When I took the plunge and finally told him, I made an appointment with my doctor and offered for him to come along to learn and ask questions. My doctor told me about using Valtrex to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to a partner, and I plan to start that therapy. I told this guy about all that and I gave him the packet of materials that my doctor had given me a year ago, along with information I printed from ASHA’s web site. I told him about the statistics and all that, and said this is the first time having to tell someone and it was very difficult.
"He said he needs time to learn about herpes and consult with his own doctor before making any decisions. He plans on getting tested, too. He is still treating me the same, that is, wonderful. He told me his feelings for me haven't changed, so I think I just need to be patient as he works through this. It's just so hard.
"I really want people to know that I'm glad I told him even if things don’t work out between us. I couldn't have lived with the guilt and stress of not telling and moving forward sexually. Believe me, I thought about it, but I see a future with him and I thought the best thing is to start off honestly."
Your story reminds us that accurate, consistent information is of paramount value for patients and partners striving to manage genital herpes in a relationship. Anyone who is sexually active can contract genital herpes, but there are strategies couples may use to reduce the risk of transmission.
First, kudos to your health care provider for telling you that daily use of Valtrex can reduce the risk of transmission to a partner (studies show using “suppressive therapy” can reduce transmission by about half).
It’s a good idea that your partner wants to be tested for HSV: The virus is common but the vast majority of cases are unrecognized, so anyone who is sexually active could have herpes and simply not be aware. Accurate, type-specific blood tests can determine if a person has antibodies to HSV-2 (the type most often associated with genital infection), and knowing his status will help the two of you make better informed decisions.
Additional prevention steps include:
- During an outbreak of genital herpes, abstain from sexual activity until all signs or symptoms have healed.
- When no symptoms are present, herpes can still be active (this is called asymptomatic shedding or reactivation). Using latex condoms between outbreaks greatly reduce the risk of transmission. While condoms don't cover all potential areas where shedding may occur, they still have tremendous value in covering the skin that is most vulnerable for transmission.