Enjoying Sex after a Herpes Diagnosis

People often wrongly think that a herpes diagnosis is the end of sexual enjoyment.

Many feel depressed, angry, confused, or ashamed following a diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and they worry that they will never have a satisfying sex life again.

Some people feel they don’t deserve to, due to the stigma associated with the diagnosis.   However, millions of Americans have STDs and still have thriving, happy sex lives. Despite the challenges, it is still possible to have great sex. Here’s what you need to know:

Realize you are not alone. Forty-five million Americans — or nearly one in five people — are living with the herpes simplex virus type 2, or genital herpes (HSV-2). Another 100 million Americans have HSV-1, which is oral herpes, aka cold sores. Although there is far less of a stigma associated with oral herpes, both HSV-1 and HSV-2 present challenges for millions of people daily.

Ask your doctor how to manage herpes. All chronic STDs are the result of a virus that can never be eliminated from the body; however, many options exist for managing them. You should discuss these options with your doctor, as well as ways to protect your sex partner from contracting the virus from you. Even if you aren’t currently experiencing an outbreak, it is still possible to spread the virus.

Find support. Reach out to STD support groups. There are also online support groups for people with herpes. They can offer excellent information and connect you with others going through similar struggles.

See a therapist. Visiting a therapist can help you come to accept your condition and focus on moving forward. 

Engage in a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle will help decrease herpes episodes. Getting enough sleep, eating right, and reducing stress all go a long way toward keeping breakouts to a minimum. Several medications on the market can also help.

When it comes to negotiating sex with a new partner, it simply requires honesty. Everyone has something they don’t like about their sexuality or their past. You should be clear about your diagnosis at the beginning of a relationship and if your partner is not willing to work around it, then this is not the right person for you.

Arming yourself with the facts will help the conversation go more smoothly. Though there is a small risk of passing on the virus even when you don’t have any lesions (via a process known as shedding), studies show that consistent condom use largely minimizes this risk.

When you have a visible herpes outbreak, sexual activity should be avoided entirely. The use of condoms cannot guarantee that genital herpes will not spread. Skin-to-skin contact (such as when your genitals rub against each other) can transmit herpes, as can oral sex. If you have genital herpes, you can pass it on when your partner performs oral sex on you, or if you have oral herpes, you can pass it on when you perform oral sex on your partner. 

When you do perform oral sex, it is always a good idea to use condoms and dental dams to help prevent the spread of STDs and to ensure that sex is as safe as possible. While precautions such as these might take some of the spontaneity out of sex, they will ultimately help to protect you and your partner, and this will allow you to both feel relaxed and uninhibited during the act. And what’s sexier than that?

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