Do I Have to Tell My Partner if I Have No Symptoms?
I was diagnosed with genital herpes about 10 years ago. I have a very mild case of it and haven’t had a breakout in a few years. I also am on a daily suppressive therapy medication. My question is, because it has been a few years since I have had a breakout, do I still need to tell guys I am getting serious with about the herpes?
Feeling romantic this Valentine season? Before you break out the champagne and roses to prepare for that special night, you need to do two things: protect yourself and protect your partner. We all know that latex condoms (and abstinence) are the best ways to protect you from getting an STD. So be sure to have some handy.
Second, if you have herpes, you need to have that one so awkward discussion and tell your potential partner NOW - before the romance heats up. Even if you aren’t having an outbreak.
While, it’s true that you’re most contagious when you have active symptoms, you can STILL "shed" virus into bodily secretions even when you aren’t having an outbreak.
In fact, seventy percent of new cases of herpes are transmitted from someone with no symptoms at the time that they passed the virus to another person.
Suppressive therapy significantly reduces the risk of you having symptoms or infecting a partner, however, the risk STILL exists. How much? No one knows with certainty. One study demonstrated a 50% drop in transmission between monogamous partners where one was infected but asymptomatic and the other was not infected when the infected partner took suppressive therapy.
Other studies have documented that asymptomatic shedding of the virus occurs in some on suppressive therapy with no active disease, but not in others. So while suppressive therapy DOES significantly decrease risk of transmission, that risk still exists.
It’s up to you to decide the right time and way to tell your date that you have genital herpes. Just promise me that you’ll do two things: Don’t wait until after having sex to disclose this information and second, don’t wait until you’re about to have sex to have the talk. You may get too "into the moment" to act responsibly. If you’re having an outbreak, save the sex for another time.
Important: We hope you find this general medical and health information useful, but this Q&A is meant to support not replace the professional medical advice you receive from your doctor. For all personal medical and health matters, including decisions about diagnoses, medications and other treatment options, you should always consult your doctor. See full Disclaimer.
Charlotte Grayson, M.D., is an internist in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. She is a 1995 graduate of Boston University School of Medicine. She completed her internal medicine residency in 1998 at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Previously, Dr. Grayson was Senior Medical Editor for a leading healthcare content company. She frequently speaks to the media about health, appearing on Fox News and CNN and contributing to TIME, Real Simple, Women’s Health, and WebMD magazines.