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I am an older female with both HSV1 (mouth) and HSV2 (genital). I recently started seeing an older man who has had cold sores (and therefore presumably has HSV1), and also definitely has HSV2. I had a cold sore outbreak on my mouth, for which I took Valtrex (1000 mg. 12 hours apart); I did not mention this to him, as I figured the dose would address the issue. About 2 days later, I gave him oral sex, which irritated the remainder of the oral cold sore I had, and caused me to tell him about taking the Valtrex. He is now extremely anxious that I might "give him" some type of herpes, and won't even kiss me. Given that it seems we are seroconcordant, does he have a reason to be so anxious? It is creating a real dent in my feelings for him, as I feel as if he is treating me as if I am now some kind of untouchable.

Hello,

Thanks for writing, and sorry to hear about your stressful situation. Herpes can be very frustrating and confusing for a lot of people, however no one should ever be made to feel untouchable.

You’re correct that once someone has been exposed to HSV type 1 or 2 it's unlikely for them to develop a new infection on a different part of the body. Once someone is exposed to HSV type 1 or 2 they will usually develop antibodies to that type and those antibodies provide good protection from having the same type of HSV being passed to a different part of the body.

The only exception is in the first 4 months after initial exposure. It takes up to 4 months for most people to develop antibodies, and if your partner was only diagnosed with HSV 1 or 2 in the past 4 months he may still be susceptible. However, if he was diagnosed more than 4 months ago, then he will have antibodies that will provide good protection.

One other thing I want to clarify: Have both you and your partner had your HSV 1 and 2 typed? That is, when you were given those diagnoses was it through a swab or blood test? Some people assume that HSV 1 is only on the mouth, and that HSV 2 is only on the genitals, but that is not true. A person can have can have the same type (1 or 2) on both their mouth and genitals, so you can’t just assume that because someone has HSV in two places that they’ve been exposed to both types. It would be good to clarify with your partner… If he just assumes he’s had both HSV 1 and 2 because of the locations of his outbreaks, he could just have type 1 or type 2 in both places (and still be susceptible to the other type).

Lastly I just wanted to say, despite herpes being one of the most common STIs (we estimate that 89% of Canadians have type 1 or 2 or both), we still see lots of stress and confusion around HSV. Unfortunately not everyone has been able to get a good education regarding herpes, and different peoples’ reactions to hearing their partner has herpes can reflect the education the person has gotten (or not gotten) about the virus. You may find that some people are not bothered by herpes at all, whereas other people will need more education. Hopefully you and your partner can find some understanding.

For more in-depth information on HSV take a look at our Patient Guide to Herpes.

Please feel free to comment below or submit another question as needed.

Hope this helps.

Health Nurse

This answer was posted on December 19, 2018

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