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Lesbians and Herpes


Lesbians are at risk for herpes, both genital and oral types. How can lesbians and bisexual women protect themselves from herpes? Here are some facts about herpes and what you need to know to protect yourself and your partner from herpes.

What is Herpes?

Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). Herpes lesions can occur on the genitals, mouth or anus. Oral herpes, or herpes on the mouth, is sometimes called a “cold sore” or a “fever blister.” Once someone is infected with the herpes virus, there is no cure.

According to a study published in the December 2003 issue of Sexually Transmitted Disease, 46% of lesbians were seropositive for HSV-1 (oral herpes) and 7.9% were seropositive for HSV-2 (genital herpes).

When can herpes be spread?

People are most contagious right before or during a herpes outbreak, but it can be spread at anytime. During an outbreak you may have sores or lesions on your lips or mouth area, vaginal region or anus. The sores can be itchy or painful, but many women who have herpes do not feel the sores and are not aware they even have the virus.

How is herpes spread?

Lesbians can contract herpes through direct genital to genital contact or through oral sex or kissing. Herpes can also be spread through the use of sex toys.

How can I protect myself from herpes?

The best way to prevent the spread of herpes is to avoid contact with the infected area of a partner’s body, especially if she is having an outbreak. It is best to avoid sex during a genital outbreak and kissing during an oral outbreak.

Some people choose to take herpes suppression drugs to lessen the number of outbreaks. This maybe something serodiscordant couples will want to explore with their health care providers.

If you do have sex during an outbreak, be sure to use a protective barrier, such as a dental dam or plastic wrap. If you use sex toys, be sure to clean them properly before sharing them with your partner.
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