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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 recieved the results yet, but the more I look into information about herpes the more I notice that I have all the symptoms of the intial 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 be upset after a herpes diagnosis, but try not to feel bad or get too scared. 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 the good news is it doesn't usually cause serious health problems.  And sure, herpes outbreaks are no fun, but the first one is the worst — future outbreaks are usually 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). But luckily there are lots of things you can do 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 condoms when you have sex, even if you feel totally fine. It's possible — but less likely — to spread genital herpes when you're not showing any sores or symptoms. 

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

Your local 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. For lots of people, herpes really doesn't end up being a big deal (seriously). You're not alone, and there's plenty of support out there. Read more about living with herpes.


Tags: STDs, herpes