HSV Positive: Playing It Safe and Removing the Stigma
HSV Positive: Playing It Safe and Removing the Stigma
HSV may seem scary – but there’s no need to be afraid if you know what you’re up against.
Here’s a fact that might surprise you – a report has identified that 75% of sexually active Australians have had HSV at some point in their lives. This means that 3 out of 4 Aussies have been exposed to HSV at some point. It’s that common!
HSV is just like any other communicable disease – there's nothing more to it. So if you’re HSV positive, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. You can still enjoy an ah-mazing sex life, provided you keep some pointers in mind. We’ll give you the rundown!
But hol’ up – what even isHSV?
HSV – or the herpes simplex virus – is one of the most common STIs today. There are two strains of the virus – HSV 1 and HSV 2. HSV1 usually causes cold sores around the lips and mouth, while HSV2 generally causes genital and anal herpes. An individual may be affected by both HSV1 and 2 at the same time.
How do you know if you have HSV?
Most people that have HSV don’t know that they have it (until symptoms show up). The virus is very contagious and spreads through physical contact. HSV1 can spread through kissing, using the same toothbrush, or sharing towels. HSV2 is usually sexually transmitted.
Skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or oral sex can spread the virus. This means that genital-genital, genital-oral, genital-anal, and anal-oral contact can transmit HSV. The virus can be passed even when the carrier shows no symptoms.
While HSV can spread from a carrier anytime,it is more likely to be transmitted when there are open sores, severe outbreaks, and viral shedding.
Herpes blisters can appear out of nowhere any time after infection. Sunburn, hormonal cycles, stress, and sexual activity may trigger a sore episode. Since most people don’t show symptoms of HSV immediately after contracting the virus, it can get difficult to trace the infection.
I’m HSV positive. Now what?
Once you’re HSV positive, you can take a few steps to turn your diagnosis around without pausing your sex life. The condition is treatable and can be controlled. Yay!
Shout It Out
Disclosing your HSV status (even when you don’t have active sores) is very important. Before you get physical, tell your partner about your HSV status so that they can take an informed decision. Not only does it curb the spread of the virus, but it also opens up important discussions on consent, safe sex practices, and how you can handle it together!
Keep an Eye Down There
NOW. YOUR. BODY! Herpes is more likely to be transmitted if you have open sores. Watch out for signs of herpes episodes. If you find a cold sore around your nether regions or experience a tingling sensation, it might be time to visit the doctor. Blisters and ulcers around your mouth and genitals are a surefire sign of herpes. It might not be a good idea to have unprotected sex when you have cold sores. Wait till they heal before you get bumpin’. Until then, use barriers and get creative!
Keep ‘em Sealed
If you have cold sores around your mouth, do not kiss your partner until a week after it has healed. If you have sores down there, engaging in some good ole' unprotected cunnilingus or fellatio might be a bad idea.
You can get right back to it once your sores have healed. Until then, how about exchanging some racy photos and dirty notes with each other?
Condoms are your BFFs
Since HSV spreads through sexual contact, an easy way to reduce its spread is by using a barrier. Condoms are your best friends! Condoms, dental dams, and diaphragms reduce the transmission of HSV drastically (although they don’t stop it entirely).
Remember – it is important to use barriers during ALL sexual acts - be it oral, vaginal, or anal. Not only does it reduce the risk of catching an STI, but it keeps unwanted pregnancies at bay. So put one on and get it on!
Condoms may be prone to microtears if not used right. When in doubt, lube up! Using water-based lube keeps your condom from breaking (and adds some kinky fun to the mix), thereby preventing any untoward rips and tears.
While we advocate for routine STI screenings (especially if you have multiple partners), it is particularly important to get an HSV test if you or your partner has herpes. Keeping your test results handy will help you find what methods work.
Learn Your Cues
You’re the best judge of your body. If you find that sores show up more often after you eat a particular food or go through a stressful episode, it may be time to re-evaluate these choices. A few simple lifestyle changes can manage your symptoms and leave you satisfied, every time. The longer you notice these symptoms, the easier they will be to manage.
In general, eating a balanced diet, getting good sleep, and managing stress levels will have a positive impact on managing herpes.
Doctor-approved prescription antivirals can dramatically reduce the spread of HSV to negative partners. These antivirals can be had every day, even if you're not going through an episode right now. Such medications reduce the intensity and frequency of sore episodes. Always consult your doc before opting for medication.
HSV can spread through skin-to-skin contact, especially if either partner has sores. In this case, going naked near the sores might not be the best idea. This is where you can use your imagination to rise to the occasion.
Dirty dancing and erotica? Check.
Dry humping? A-OK!
Sex toys? Sign us up!
Mutual masturbation? Oh yes!
Latex bodysuit? YES PLEASE!
P.S. Using tight, restrictive clothing around a sore is not a good idea, but you’re good to go after a sore episode!
Though herpes doesn't have a cure, you can get all the action you need (and then some) if you manage your symptoms. Get smart and get down!