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Genital herpes

The following advice can help to prevent the herpes simplex virus (HSV) spreading to others. If you have genital herpes, you should avoid having sex.

The following advice can help prevent the herpes simplex virus (HSV) spreading to others.

Avoid having sex

If you have genital herpes, avoid having sex (vaginal, anal and oral) until any blisters or ulcers (open sores) around your genital area have cleared up. It's best not to have sex if you have symptoms of genital herpes because at this point the condition is highly contagious, even from the first tingle or itch.

Avoid sharing sex toys as they can also pass on sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you do share them, make sure you wash them and cover with a condom.

You should also avoid kissing your partner if either of you have a cold sore around your mouth.

Always use a condom

Always use a condom while having any kind of sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal and oral), even after your symptoms have gone. This is particularly important when having sex with new partners.

However, while using a condom may help prevent genital herpes from spreading, the condom only covers the penis. If the virus is also present on or around your anus (the opening where solid waste leaves the body), it can still be passed on through sexual contact.

As HSV survives within the nerves of your skin, the virus may still be present on your skin after you no longer have any symptoms. This means there is still a chance you could pass it to someone else.

Testing your partner 

If you have genital herpes, and your partner experiences symptoms, they should be encouraged to visit a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic (also called sexual health clinics) so they can be tested for the condition.

A first case of genital herpes (a primary infection) often develops some time after exposure to the virus, so they may be unaware they are infected.

Read more information about visiting an STI clinic.


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