What To Do When Your Partner is Diagnosed
You’ve been diagnosed with genital herpes and now you and your long term partner are asking the inevitable questions: Was someone unfaithful? If he or she has herpes, do I? If I don’t, how can I keep from getting it?
First, stop speculating about your partners actions. In many cases, it’s a futile effort. The primary infection - as it’s called - can cause typical outbreak symptoms or it can be totally asymptomatic. After initial infection, the virus climbs up a nerve where it can lie dormant for days, weeks, months or even several years. Knowing when, how or from whom you got the virus can be very difficult to figure out.
Deal with where you are now. And that means that the unaffected partner needs to be tested as soon as possible to see if they are infected.
Know that there are many different tests that your doctor may order to screen for herpes. One test screens for both forms of herpes. Therefore if you are positive, you don’t know which one you have. The CDC doesn’t recommend this test.
A more specific test detects antibodies for a protein that differs between HSV-1 and HSV-2. It is widely available.
Many herpes experts agree, however, that the Western blot is the best herpes test. Unfortunately, it isn’t widely available, it’s expensive and it’s not FDA approved. Though, in the case of a negative or indeterminate result, your clinician can have your blood specimen sent to a lab that does this test.
What if you find out that your partner is negative? How can he or she keep from getting the virus? Unfortunately, the only true way to not get genital herpes is to abstain from sex. In most situations, that’s not an ideal option So experts recommend that you always use condoms during intercourse and abstain from sex during any outbreaks.
Sleeping with someone who has genital herpes does NOT mean that you are going to get it. There are many couples in which one partner has HSV2 and the other does not.
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.