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Lesbians, HSV, and herpes

Oct 14, 1999

I am a lesbian... i have been in a relationship with a bisexual female.. recently she cheated with a man... and has discovered he has and has given her genital herpes.. she is now on medication.. but my question is,, can we still have sex since at this time she has no blister or open areas??? what are my chances of having safe sex with her.. orally and can you get it from kissing

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question.

Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). Herpes causes painful blistery lesions at the site of the infection. The lesions can be found on the genitals, the rectum, or the mouth (herpes on the mouth is also known as oral herpes, a "cold sore" or a "fever blister"). The virus is most infectious when symptoms are present (either when a tingling sensation occurs in the infected area, or when the lesion is present). You would be at risk of infection if your genital area, your mouth, or your rectum, comes into direct contact with the infected area of your partner (again, most often when symptoms are present). When no symptoms are present, transmission can still technically occur, only the chances of infection are greatly reduced.

Lesbians and bisexual women can, and do, become infected with herpes and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Between women, the biggest risk for herpes would be through direct genital-to-genital contact, oral sex, and kissing (depending upon what part of her body the lesion is located). Technically speaking there may also be a risk by sharing sex toys, but as a general STD prevention rule, it is recommended that you wash the toy before it is shared.

In the case of your partner, if she has genital herpes, you would be at risk if your vagina came into direct contact with her vagina, if you were sharing sex toys with her, and if you were giving her oral sex (especially while she is having symptoms).

The best way to protect yourself is simply to not come into direct contact with the infected area or lesions on her body, especially when she is having symptoms. It is usually recommended that you abstain from sex with her until all of her symptoms are gone. If you do have sex with her while she is having symptoms, barrier protection (such as saran or plastic wrap) is a good way to avoid direct exposure to the lesions/infected area. If you share sex toys with her, first wash the toy well with soap and water, before using the toy yourself. When she is not having any symptoms, your risk of infection is greatly reduced, but it is up to both of you whether you want to use barrier protection or not, during times that she is not having any symptoms. If she has genital herpes, you are at no risk of infection from kissing her, or having her give you oral sex.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

Canadian Oral Sex Guidelines
Lesbians, HPV, and genital warts

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