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Dear Dr. Vanessa, Did My Girlfriend Give Me Herpes?

Wed, Oct 5, 2011

Advice, What's Up Doc?

photo via Flickr

Every few weeks, Dr. Vanessa Cullins, a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood® Federation of America, will be answering your questions on EMandLO.com. To ask her your own question, click here.

Dear Dr. Vanessa,

I’ve been with my current partner for six months, and I just got diagnosed with herpes. My partner swears she didn’t cheat on me. Should I believe her?

– Herplexed

Dear Herplexed,

Believe her until you have real evidence to not believe her. Herpes may not be good evidence. A person can be infected with herpes for years — even a lifetime — without knowing it. That’s why it is possible for herpes to break out in someone whose partner has been sexually faithful. The infection could have been there before they met. A weakened immune system or other stress can set off an outbreak long after infection occurred. In many cases, there is no way to tell who infected whom.

At least 50 million U.S. women and men have herpes. One million new cases are diagnosed every year. Millions of others go undetected. With so many invisible infections being passed around, herpes has become one of the common risks of being sexually active.

Of course, folks who have active herpes sores shouldn’t have sex with anyone else until the sores are totally healed. They may also want to consider suppressive therapy — taking anti-herpes drugs to reduce the risk of passing the infection to uninfected partners. And they should always use condoms when they have sexual intercourse, which will help cut down the risk of transmission.

Best wishes for good sexual health,

Vanessa
Planned Parenthood

dr_vanessa_cullins

Vanessa Cullins, MD, MPH, MBA, is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood® Federation of America. She generously shares her medical wisdom with EM & LO readers every few weeks.

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