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Reducing Your Risk of Genital Herpes

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In order to protect yourself from getting genital herpes and other STDs, you may need to change your sexual practices. These changes will help you protect you and your partners from getting and spreading the infection to others. Some changes include:

  • Abstain from sex. This is the most certain way to avoid contracting genital herpes .
  • Have a long-term relationship with just one person, who only has a sexual relationship with you.
  • Always use a latex condom when you do have sex. It is important to know that the virus can be found on the skin in areas that are not covered by a condom. So, even with protection, there is still a chance that you can contract the virus from others.
  • Herpes simplex type 1 virus, which is a frequent cause of cold sores , can also spread to the genital area. If you or your partner has a cold sore, avoid kissing or engaging in oral sex.
  • If your partner has genital herpes, take special precautions. Learn as much as you can about the virus and ways to prevent being infected. Always use a latex condom when having sex. Avoid having sex if your partner has an outbreak. Keep in mind, though, that your partner can spread the virus even when he or she is not having an outbreak.
  • If you are pregnant, take special precautions to avoid getting genital herpes. Avoid having sex with a partner who has genital herpes. Also avoid having oral sex with a partner who has cold sores.
  • If you do have unprotected sex with someone who may have genital herpes, talk to your doctor. Tests can be done to find out if you have the virus.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: David Horn, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2014 -
  • Update Date: 05/28/2014 -
  • Genital herpes—CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: . Updated February 13, 2013 Accessed May 23, 2013.

  • Genital herpes fact sheet. US Department of Health and Human Services Womens Health website. Available at: . Updated August 10, 2009. Accessed May 23 2013.

  • Herpes genitalis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated May 2, 2013. Accessed May 23, 2013.

  • Jones CA. Vertical transmission of genital herpes: prevention and treatment options. Drugs . 2009;69(4):421-434.

  • Workowski KA, Berman S, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR . 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.