He Has Herpes. I Do Not. Is Risk-Free Sex Possible?

Tue, 03/20/2012 - 08:36
Submitted by Betty Dodson

Dr. Betty,

I hope you are in good spirits, as you're reading this.

I have met a potential sexual partner, who revealed to me on our first coffee date that he has herpes, and is on daily antivirals. This did not completely rule out us having sex, however, I am concerned about the rate of transmission. I've done my research, but would still like your opinion.

Do you believe having sex with an HSV suffer is too risky?

Thank you for your time,

Miss. Chief

Dear C,

Since a large portion of the population has Herpes (which I see much like the common cold) you are narrowing your field of possible lovers. I have Herpes outbreaks from time to time and lived with a sex partner for 10 years who never contacted the virus.

And I never took any of that anti-viral Big Pharma crap at $300 a bottle. What a rip-off. So anyone with a healthy immune system who avoids sex with a partner who has an active blister will not catch it. That's my take.

Dr. Betty

Liberating women one orgasm at a time

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I disagree with Betty's

Tue, 03/20/2012 - 11:44
Elin A (not verified)

I disagree with Betty's advice. A good immune system is always a plus, as are antivirals, but you don't know if it's enough and our immune systems go up and down. One person can be lucky, the next might not be.
A person can be infectious without experiencing the usual symptoms. So even if there's no visible ourbreaks or sensations, you should wear a condom always. But if he gets it in a place the condom doesn't cover, you could get infected anyway and must be extra observant. So learn exactly where it breaks out, which might give you a better idea of how exposed you are. I don't know if I'd abstain completely, only you can feel what's right there.
Finally, I feel I want to ask you, Betty, because you always say you "sailed" through the sexual revolution without contracting any diseases. Yet now you say you do have herpes. Did you get that later in life? Or did you actually not sail through? I know it's rude to ask, but I feel that it's important as people might get the impression that protection against disease is overrated.

You seem to enjoy disagreeing with me. True?

Betty Dodson's picture
Tue, 03/20/2012 - 12:50
Betty Dodson

It's my personal opinion that Herpes is not a serious disease but that it's used to scare folks away from enjoying sex with other people. It's similar to having a cold sore on your mouth. Yes, I sailed through America's sexual revolution without contacting any vernerial disease. My first outbreak was in the 80's which most would agree was when AIDS was presented in a way that scared the shit out of people. Germ phobes love to be scared of catching some bug but I say most often they bring it on themselves by being rundown and eating fast food. According to the CDC you can contact Herpes in a gazillion ways as the cells float around just waiting to land on some unsuspecting soul. Yes. for the most part I believe protection against disease is what keeps Big Pharma's profits soaring. So to each her own Dear girl. We'll have to agree to disagree.

Good on you, Betty!

Tue, 03/20/2012 - 13:11
Liz MW (not verified)

Although I don't have herpes myself, there does seem to be a massive stigma about it when in the grand scheme of things, "it's not that big a fucking deal", to quote Dan Savage.
He had Dr Anna Kaminski from Planned Parenthood on his podcast and she had this to say, “People have fevers, chills, pretty impressive headaches … you’re down
for a few days the very first time. That being said, 70% of people have
no idea when they got it and are absolutely unaware that they had a
primary outbreak. So even though the first herpes outbreak tends to be
the most severe for a lot of people, it really isn’t something that a
lot of people notice. 15-20% of people who have an initial
outbreak never have another outbreak, but they can shed herpes."
Quite interesting statistics when the idea that floats around in the public is that herpes is like the plague and we should run screaming. I've known a few people with herpes, and it hasn't greatly impacted their sex lives but for a handful of negative reactions from potential sex partners. Not the end of the world.
So go, Betty. We don't have to buy into the hysteria and social stigma, and go running to the drug companies. Some risks are worth assuming, especially if you like this guy, and even if you do catch herpes, it's not that big a deal.
However, it's worth mentioning that I have heard that a female condom can help to prevent skin-to-skin STIs as it has a wide brim at the bottom that can cover some of the vulva.

I don't know if it's the most

Tue, 03/20/2012 - 16:00
Elin A (not verified)

I don't know if it's the most serious disease, either, but it can be painful and annoying when it breaks out for sure. But the question wasn't how serious the disease is, but how she can be as safe as possible. I think if you want to be as safe as possible and still have sex with an infected person, learn where the infection breaks out and use a condom. In my opinion, you can't count on immune system and detecting when you are to break out. 

Well, I for one disagree about big pharma. It's not protection against disease that keeps it soaring, it's the treatments people get after contracting the shit. So if you don't like them - and who does - promoting the use of condoms is an excellent way of reducing their revenues big time. If people protected themselves better, they wouldn't need penicillin and antiviral treatments (for STD's, anyway). Especially when it comes to HIV and AIDS, which is a huge cash cow for them.

Betty: About enjoying

Wed, 03/21/2012 - 13:20
Elin A (not verified)

About enjoying disagreeing with you... I don't know what you want to say with that. It feels like you want to suggest I'm just in it for the sake of opposing you, which really is an insult.
I enjoy discussing and if I disagree with someone and I'm not afraid to do so and stand my ground if I feel it's right. If anything, I would have thought that you, personal opinions aside, would see that as a positive quality. After all, you exercise it all the time yourself.

I said what I wanted to say.

Betty Dodson's picture
Wed, 03/21/2012 - 15:19
Betty Dodson

You are entitled to say what you said. The fact that you oppose me so frequently started to appear as a game of some sort that you enjoyed. So carry on sister. I have no objections to your ongoing comments of "I disagree with Dr. Betty."  After all if we can't express our opinions on D&R it will be a sad day for human sexuality. 

Be careful

Thu, 03/22/2012 - 05:34
Grace (not verified)

Betty, I want to make it clear that I love your site, books and everything you do.  I am an advanced practice health care professional though and I wouldnt feel comfortable not throwing a word in about this though.  I think you are making a huge mistake to trivialize the conditions in which herpes can be spread.  

You have no idea how often I see patients who caught herpes from someone who DID NOT have an active outbreak.  Your viral level can be high before you have blisters, and some people do not really ever get blisters even though they would be considered highly contagious.  I do want to pay you credit though because you are right to an extent, without the blisters transmission is unlikely, but not as rare as you are passing it off to be and as a womens health care specialist this really concerns me.  
Also antivirals for herpes have been generic for quite some time and are relativly cheap.

Anyway, carry on.

Betty, Ok. I don't understand

Thu, 03/22/2012 - 13:36
Elin A (not verified)

Ok. I don't understand why you'd think it was a game, but whatever.
I disagree with others in here, too. And I often agree with you and others. I don't express it as often, since the point's been made. Sometimes, I'll just add something that came to mind, no disagreeing involved. Sometimes I partly agree, partly disagree. 
I didn't think you'd be bothered by it. You're a great lady and you know that respect for diverse opinion is a necessity for true sharing and flow of information.

I wasn't THAT bothered by it.

Betty Dodson's picture
Thu, 03/22/2012 - 16:16
Betty Dodson

> I was smiling when I responded to you by saying it seemed you took
> pleasure in saying, "I disagree with Betty." Does everything have to
> be so serious? I came of age during America's Sexual Revolution
> when the sexual freedom to chose was very available. My voice
> is not average due to my extensive positive experience with sexuality
> on so many levels. Still, I always make it a point to use "I" sentences
>  which means "it's only my opinion."  So by all means speak your mind.
> Let's kiss and make up!

herpes positive

Fri, 03/23/2012 - 06:53
BorderReiver (not verified)

I am, and my wife has never contracted it from me.  My responsinilites to her safety include:
1. refraining from sex when I have an outbreak,
2. staying away from anything that has a lot of sugar in it, ( which triggers an outbreak.  Apparently the bug has a 'sweet tooth').
3. taking Lysine on a daily basis, which helps to keep the bug dormant.
For me, it's not hard to control, but it has necessitated a few small lifestyle changes, as outlined above.