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Q: How do I deal with my partner’s positive herpes test?

Q: How do I deal with my partner’s positive herpes test?

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

You say you’ve tested negative for herpes 1 and 2 antibodies, while your partner has tested positive for the herpes 2 virus, though he has not shown symptoms. I don’t find your situation unusual, and it does pose a bit of a conundrum. The reality is that using condoms is the most reliable way to prevent transmission, but in a long-term relationship, I understand that it’s not desirable.

I find that the most up to date and reliable information regarding HSV (and other STIs) is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is what I use to counsel patients:

  • HSV can be transmitted when lesions are not present.
  • Anyone with a HSV diagnosis is encouraged to inform current and future intimate partners, and to abstain from sex when lesions or their precursor symptoms are present.
  • Correct and consistent use of latex condoms might reduce the risk of transmission.
  • “Daily treatment with valacyclovir 500 mg decreases the rate of HSV-2 transmission in discordant, heterosexual couples in which the source partner has a history of genital HSV-2 infection. Such couples should be encouraged to consider suppressive antiviral therapy as part of a strategy to prevent transmission, in addition to consistent condom use and avoidance of sexual activity during recurrences. Episodic therapy does not reduce the risk for transmission and its use should be discouraged for this purpose among persons whose partners might be at risk for HSV-2 acquisition.”

What that last point means is that ongoing daily treatment with a prescription for an antiviral therapy by the affected partner can be effective protection to reduce the chances of transmission; “episodic therapy,” meaning the antiviral is taken only in cases of an outbreak of lesions, will not provide that protection.

I hope this is clear! You can have intimacy confidently, and I’m glad you’re researching the steps to take!


  • My partner and I have been dating for almost 3 yrs. I recently had some painful blisters on my vagina. I went to the gyna and she said its herpes. We both got tested the following daym he is positive hsv 1 and borderline hsv2. My results were negative for both. Should I do the test again? I am scared that the results may change .

    CM on

  • Thank You for sharing a nice article.The first is believing that your partner lied to you about having herpes … or one of their partners has a first herpes outbreak and sends them to get tested. … and discussions about safe sex and sexual history are a good idea. … first herpes outbreak receive an antiviral regimen to help manage the symptoms.

    john on

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