Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a very common with an estimated up to 89% of Canadian having it. However, HSV carries a lot of stigma that can lead to anxiety, fear and misinformation about it.
HSV is passed by skin-to-skin contact from a person who has it. It is commonly passed when people have symptoms (outbreaks, sore that are healing or prodromal symptoms), but it can also be passed even if you do not have symptoms (this is called “asymptomatic shedding”).
To lower your chances of passing HSV to your partners, there are a few things you can do:
- Avoiding sexual contact while symptomatic
- Using condoms and barriers during sex
- Considering taking antiviral medication, particularly if you have frequent outbreaks
Note: Condoms offer good protection, but do not completely prevent passing HSV because they do not cover the entire genital area.
With regard to telling partners, this can be difficult. Telling your partners lets them make informed choices. There may be situations where you do not feel safe telling your partners. Ultimately, it is your choice; informing partners is not required as it is with some other STIs (such as, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV).
Have a look at our Herpes: A Patient’s Guide to learn more about HSV; there is a useful section on telling partners.