What we know about the Herpes simplex virus (HSV) has been changing as more research has been done and the HSV tests have become more sensitive.
You are correct that the easiest time to pass HSV is when you are having symptoms. We recommend avoiding skin to skin contact with the affected area (even if a condom is used) until it is completely healed back to normal skin.
Different research studies have shown that HSV does shed (be on the skin) for periods of time even when a person does not have symptoms of an outbreak. Estimates on the chances of passing genital HSV type 2 from a woman to a man is about 4% per year and from a man to a woman is 10% per year.
With someone who has genital HSV type 2, research also indicates that HSV is present in the “boxer short area” on 15-30% of the days evaluated.
These are just averages and some people will shed more and some will shed less. We currently think that up to 70% of people get HSV from someone who did not have HSV symptoms at the time.
Here are some things that have been shown to reduce the chance of passing on HSV:
- Avoiding skin to skin contact with the area affected by the HSV outbreak
- Using condoms when not having an outbreak
- Taking daily antiviral medication
Have a look at our HSV page for more information.
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