herpes prevention

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Protecting yourself from herpes

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

The other day, a friend told me a joke:

“What’s the difference between love and herpes?”

I said I didn’t know.

“Herpes is forever,” she said.

While I’m not as cynical as my friend – I’ve been in love with my husband for 40 years and will love him for as long as I live – she’s right about one thing. Once you get herpes, you’ve got it for good.

So, what can you do to protect yourself?

Condoms offer better protection against HIV and pregnancy than against genital herpes. That’s because herpes lesions can appear just beyond the genitalia, in areas the condom doesn’t cover.

If you or your partner has herpes, the best protection against passing it on is suppression therapy – acyclovir or Valtrex. Whenever the infected person feels the tingles and other sensations that usually signal an imminent herpes episode, avoid sexual contact.

And if you’re just starting a new romance, be sure to have a frank talk about herpes and other intimate issues before you decide to take it to the next level. Remember, while it may be difficult at first to determine whether a relationship has staying power, you can be sure that herpes does.

– Yvonne Thornton, MD. MPH