Will male condoms protect against Herpes or the Human Papilloma virus (HPV)?
Protection against disease transmission is much less effective against such sexually transmitted diseases as Herpes and the Human Papilloma Virus, which can be located on skin surfaces not covered or protected by a condom. The female condom theoretically may be more effective in this situation because it covers a greater area.
My new partner told me he has herpes, and that there is no cure for it. What does this mean for me if we decide to sleep together? Help!
Herpes is a viral infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), types 1 and 2. HSV can affect the mouth area (commonly called a cold sore) or the genital areas. It is spread by direct contact with these areas. It can be transmitted by sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal), oral sex, or kissing, depending on which area is affected.
When the virus first enters the body, it usually causes a painful, blister-like lesion in the infected area. The blister then bursts, forming an ulcer or sore, then crusts over and heals, over several days to weeks. Sometimes, however, the virus can infect a person without causing sores, so they do not know they have it. Once inside, the virus lives at the root of the nerve that supplies the skin where it entered, and stays there for the rest of that persons life. It lies inactive most of the time, but periodically can reactivate and cause blister-like lesions in the same area of skin. This is called an outbreak.
The number and frequency of these outbreaks varies from person to person. Some may never have another occurrence, and others can have them very frequently. Outbreaks generally happen more frequently soon after the person is first infected, but also tend to happen at times when a person is under physical or emotional stress, or when their immune system is suppressed.
Subsequent outbreaks of herpes are usually less painful than the first one, and generally heal quicker. No treatment is necessary, as the sores will go away by themselves. There are pills (acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir) that can be used to shorten the length of an outbreak, but they do not cure the infection. There is also a cream that can be applied to the affected skin, but whether or not it actually helps is unclear.
People who get very frequent outbreaks can take a low dose of the oral medication daily. This has been shown to reduce the number of times the virus reappears.
Avoiding sexual contact when there are visible lesions is the easiest and most obvious way to reduce the chances of spread to an uninfected partner. Herpes is most contagious when there are lesions, but there is a small chance (around 1% - 5%) that a person with herpes could be shedding the virus even if there are no symptoms. Condoms are generally a good idea to prevent infections, but if the site of the herpes lesion is not covered by the condom, they may not prevent transmission. Recently, studies have shown that giving a person with herpes a low dose of medication every day can decrease their partners chance of becoming infected.
Babies can pick up the virus from their mothers during vaginal delivery. The chance of a baby becoming infected is very small, especially if the mother has had the infection for some time (as opposed to becoming infected while she is pregnant). Sometimes, women with herpes are given medication at the end of the pregnancy to prevent recurrences. If there is a lesion at the time of labour, a cesarean section will often be carried out because this has helps to reduce infection in the baby.
Because herpes is a lifetime infection, it can cause many problems in relationships. One sticky situation is when one partner develops herpes for the first time in the context of a long-term, monogamous relationship. The other person may assume their partner was unfaithful, and while that is a possibility, it could also be that he or she has had the virus for years, but never had a noticeable outbreak. The key is open communication. Your partner did the right thing by telling you before you became intimate. The good news is that herpes is not usually a fatal or serious infection, except in babies, or in people whose immune system is depressed.
I recently learned that my partner has had herpes in the past and I’m not sure what to do. How can I protect myself?
When a partner has herpes, there is a risk that you could get it too. You’ll want to understand how to lower the risk for infection and ways to talk with your partner. If you have been sexually active before, you may already have been at risk for herpes. Because herpes can be spread without symptoms (asymptomatic shedding) it can be hard to know when a person became infected and who infected them. In an intimate, sexual relationship with a person who has herpes, the risk of contracting the infection will never be zero. Some couples have sexual relationships for years without transmitting herpes just by avoiding sexual contact during outbreaks, using condoms regularly and using suppressive antiviral therapy to reduce outbreaks. Couples deal successfully with herpes all the time. For many, it is a minor inconvenience. Since herpes does not pose a serious health risk, some couples choose not to use condoms in a long-term relationship.
Ways to reduce your risk include:
1. If someone has a symptom around the mouth (oral herpes), she/he should not perform oral sex until all signs have healed.
2. If someone has signs or symptoms around the genital region (genital herpes), he/she should not have sexual activity until all signs have healed.
3. When there are no symptoms present, using latex condoms for genital-to-genital contact reduces the risk of transmission.
4. One antiviral medication for herpes, valacyclovir, has recently been shown to reduce the risk of herpes transmission. When taken daily by a person with a history of recurrent genital herpes, valacyclovir can reduce the risk of transmission to a partner who does not have the virus by 50%. It’s likely that a combination of suppressive valacyclovir and condoms provides greater protection than either method alone.
5. Partner communication. It is important for both partners to become educated about herpes and to make decisions together about which precautions are best.
I had unprotected sex in the shower with someone and later found out that he has herpes, and may have had an outbreak at the time. I then performed oral sex on someone else about a week later. My question is can my 2nd partner get herpes if I didnt perform oral sex on the infected person?
If the first partner with herpes had an outbreak at the time you had unprotected intercourse, you could have picked up the virus around your genitals. If you did not perform oral sex on the first partner, the area around your mouth would not have been affected, and you could not transmit the virus to the 2 nd partner by oral sex alone. Its a bit more complicated than that though. Many people dont realize that cold sores are a type of herpes. If you have ever had a cold sore around your mouth you could potentially transmit the herpes virus to any partner by kissing or when you give oral sex. The chances of that are much greater if there is actually a cold sore present.
So the simple answer to your question is no it is unlikely that your second partner could have gotten herpes based on the exposure you describe. Having said that, unprotected sex (with a person it sounds like you didnt know very well) puts you at risk for a host of other sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and is never a good idea.
How can you tell if you have genital warts? What are the signs and symptoms of genital warts? How are genital warts treated? How can transmission of genital warts be prevented?
The signs and symptoms of genital warts include:
1. Tiny, pink or red swellings in the genital area that grow quickly
2. Several warts close together may have a cauliflower shape
3. Itching or burning in your genital area
Genital warts often disappear even without treatment. Depending on the size and location of the warts, there are several ways to treat them. Health care providers may help by treating them with medications or surgical treatments. If the underlying virus isn’t completely eliminated, however, genital warts may reappear even after treatment.
Medications are applied directly to the affected area (the wart itself). These include:
1. Imiquimod (Aldara)
2. Podofilox (Condylox)
3. Trichloroacetic acid
4. 5-fluorouracil cream (5%)
Surgery may be necessary to remove larger warts or warts that don’t respond to medications.
Surgical options include:
1. Freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery)
2. Burning with electricity (electrocautery)
3. Laser treatments
Although treatments can get rid of the warts, none gets rid of the virus. Because the virus is still present in your body, warts often come back after treatment.Do not try to treat genital warts with over-the-counter medications. These are not made to be used on the moist tissues of the genital area, and if used on the genitals, they may cause even more pain and irritation.
The only way you can prevent getting an HPV infection is to avoid direct contact with the virus, which is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. Practicing safer sex can decrease the risk of genital warts. But, using condoms doesn’t eliminate the risk entirely because they still may allow you or your partner to come in contact with infected skin.
If you or your sexual partner have warts that are visible in the genital area, avoid sexual contact until the warts are treated. If you’ve developed genital warts for the first time, inform your sexual partner so that he or she can get treatment and take precautions to prevent spreading the condition to others.
How can I protect myself against herpes?
The herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) causes genital infections. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) usually is associated with oral lesions, however can be transmitted to the genital area through oral-genital contact. Transmission can occur with active infections but as well when no lesions are visible. Condoms can reduce the risk of transmission. Abstinence during active outbreaks is recommended as virus shedding is more prominent at this time. A recent publication has shown that, in patients with recurrent genital herpes, a daily dose (500mg) of valacyclovir can reduce the rates of recurrent outbreaks, shedding of the virus, and transmission to a non-affected partner.
Corey L, Wald A, Patel R et al. Once-daily valacyclovir to reduce the risk of transmission of genital herpes. N Engl J Med, 2004; 350: 11-20
How are genital warts transmitted?
Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus. The virus can manifest its presence by causing visible warts, but can also be present silently. It can infect the external genitalia, as well as the cervix, vagina, urethra, anus and mouth.
The virus is usually transmitted by sexual contact, including genital, oral and anal. Avoiding contact with the visible warts, and using condoms, may help decrease transmission. However there is no perfect method, except abstinence, to prevent transmission. There is no clear evidence that treating genital warts decreases infectivity.
Can you transmit cold sores during oral sex? If so, do they turn into genital herpes?
Cold sores and genital herpes are caused by two strains of the Herpes Simplex virus (type 1 and type 2). Although type 1 most commonly causes cold sores, and type 2 causes genital herpes, either one can infect the mouth or the genital area. One should avoid contact with others if they have a cold sore, particularly kissing and oral sex. If a person with a cold sore performs oral sex on their partner, there is a possibility that their partner could develop genital herpes. Thus it is recommended that a person with a cold sore abstain from performing oral sex on their partner until the sore has healed. If abstaining is not possible, then appropriate precautions, such as the use of an oral dam or latex condom, should be taken.