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I went to the doctors a few days ago for what I thought was poison oak on my vulva, but the doctor said that she is pretty positive I have genital herpes so she gave me a urine test and some cultures. I have not received the results yet, but the more I look into information about herpes the more I notice that I have all the symptoms of the initial outbreak. Honestly I am terrified and I feel hurt and very confused. My question is how can I have sex with my boyfriend or anyone ever again without giving them the virus?

It’s normal to have a lot of different feelings when you get an STD diagnosis. It can be upsetting, confusing, or even scary. Herpes is a VERY common infection — millions of people have it, and plenty are still having totally normal relationships and living totally normal lives. Herpes can be painful and annoying, but there are ways to manage it. And sure, herpes outbreaks are no fun, but the first outbreak  is usually the worst, and future outbreaks become shorter and less painful. Most people with herpes get fewer outbreaks as time goes on, and some stop having them altogether.

There's no cure for herpes, and it's possible to give the virus to others (whether or not you have symptoms). Here are some tips to help protect your partners and avoid spreading herpes:

1. Herpes is spread during skin-to-skin contact with infected areas, and it's most contagious during an outbreak — when you have sores that are open, moist, or leaking fluid. So definitely avoid sex (even with a condom) when you have sores, and anytime you feel an outbreak coming on. Warning signs of an outbreak may include a burning, itching, or tingling feeling. Don’t have sex until your sores are totally gone — at least 7 days after the sores heal and the scabs fall off.

2. Don’t touch your herpes sores, because you can spread the infection to other parts of your body or other people. If you touch a sore or your genitals, wash your hands with soap and water right after.

3. Use protection like condoms and/or dental dams when you have sex, even if you feel totally fine. Although it's less likely  to spread genital herpes when you don’t have symptoms, it’s still possible.  

4. Herpes medicine can help prevent outbreaks and lower the chances of spreading herpes to your partners. Talk with your doctor or nurse about herpes treatments that may be right for you.

Your nearest Planned Parenthood health center can give you more information about treating herpes and protecting your partners. They may also be able to connect you with support groups in your area. 

Please know that a herpes diagnosis is not the end of the world, and there's nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Lots of people live with herpes, manage it in their daily life, and have relationships. You're not alone, and there's plenty of support out there

Learn more about living with herpes.

Tags: STDs, herpes

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