Q and A

Question

Are condoms effective protection against herpes?

Hello.
I am a positive man and I have met a positive woman whom has genital herpes. My question is, are condom is as effective protection for herpes as they are for HIV?
I would appreciate any recommendation to practice safer sex with my partner.
Thank you.

Answer

Can I start off by asking if your girlfriend is taking treatment for herpes? This is because herpes infections are treated using a drug called acyclovir. Acyclovir can also be be taken on a regular basis to prevent recurrent (repeat) attacks of herpes. In the UK aciclovir is recommended on a regular basis if someone has two or more herpes attacks in a year.

In response to your question, condoms generally protect very well against nearly all STIs. They are, however, not so good at protecting against HPV ( a virus linked to warts) or herpes.  This is because sometimes parts of the skin are affected that are not covered by the condom.

Common symptoms for genital herpes include blisters around and within the genital area. Therefore, protection against herpes by condoms will depend on the area where the blister/s are. It may be that your girlfriend’s ulcers¬† appear on areas where you are likely to have skin to skin contact during sex. In which you may be better off abstaining from sex until the blisters are fully healed. As this will limit the risk of transmission.

Other methods of protection you could use to reduce the risk of transmission include your girlfriend using a female condom. A female condom can provide greater protection than the male condom as it covers the labia. Using dental dams for oral sex can also can also limit the transmission of herpes from her genital area to your mouth.

Best wishes.

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