Oral Herpes, Genital Herpes and Dating
Given the prevalence of herpes, and the constant turnover of men in my life, I was always surprised I hadn’t met a potential mate who shared my disease. Well I am thrilled to say that it has finally happened, and I’m sure this has, or could, happen to many others of you.
After a steamy night of making out and resisting the temptation to indulge all of our desires, we spent the next day lounging in the park, basking in the sun, and enjoying our new interest. Then, out of nowhere, he pushed back and said, “So I think I should warn you”" and the wheels in my head started spinning"Uh oh, lemme guess"you’re afraid of commitment? You’re an ex-convict? Drug addict? Until I saw the look in his eyes, sensed his nervousness, and I knew he was about to disclose an STD. "I have oral herpes, so the more you kiss me, the more chances you have of catching it." What a relief I couldn’t have been happier. After I asked him a few questions, like "How often do you have outbreaks?" and "How do you treat them?", I finally told him that I also had something to "warn" him about; that I have genital herpes.
At first he didn’t believe me. Actually, I think he was just as relieved to hear about my problem as I was to hear about his. I didn’t even ask him whether he was okay with dating someone with genital herpes; we immediately had an understanding about it. No stigma, no fear, no drama. But then I thought, what are the real risks here? He knows he has Type 1, but I’m not sure I have Type 2 herpes. It’s very possible, given my frequent outbreaks, that I have Type 1 on my genitals. It’s important I get that sorted out.
In any event, let’s imagine the possible scenarios. Let’s say he has Type 1 oral herpes and I have Type 2 genital herpes. There is no risk involved if I’m performing oral sex on him. However, if he gives me oral sex, he could potentially contract HSV-2 on his mouth, and I could contract HSV-1 on my genitals. Also, by kissing and having intercourse, we could put each other at risk for swapping herpes viruses. I knew that much was true, that there’s always a potential to transmit, but I still wanted to do a bit more researching. I found Dr. Grayson’s SharePost about genital herpes and oral sex. In it she makes it clear that if you have one type of herpes, your body creates antibodies that make it harder to get the other type. So although there is a potential for us to give each other our viruses, it sounds like it’s difficult and rare.
So now I wonder: if he has Type 1 oral herpes and I have Type 1 genital herpes, is it possible that I can give him Type 1 genital herpes and he can give me oral herpes? I suppose it is, I don’t see why not. But my bet is that the antibodies that protect us from other types of herpes also protect from the same type infecting a different part of the body. Please, someone, correct me if I’m wrongly assuming.
Has anyone been in a similar situation? Has anyone had any experiences with partners who have HSV as well as you? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
Penelope wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Sexual Health.