Medical Q&As

Herpes - risk of spread?

My new boyfriend recently admitted that he contracted herpes from a past girlfriend. We have not had sex yet as I'm unfamiliar with this disease. What should I be concerned about?

The herpes virus is highly contagious therefore there is a strong possibility of transmitting the infection when blisters are present. During the act of intercourse tiny microscopic abrasions may develop in the female vagina and this can permit the entry of the herpes virus into the woman’s body. It is also important to realise that herpes infection can recur and some people may experience a number of relapses in the one year. However, if a person with a history of herpes infection is in remission and no blisters are present then that person cannot transmit the virus. The presence of blisters is the key factor in the spread of the virus. Different couples work out their own individual solutions to this problem. Some abstain completely from sexual intercourse during relapses whereas others might use condoms at such times. Other couples might use condoms and avoid genital-to-genital contact. Some couples use condoms all the time even when blisters are not present. Openness, honesty, frank communication and trust are the essential elements in coping successfully with herpes. One very positive note that I would take from your question is that your partner has had the maturity and honesty to tell you that he had been infected.