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Ask Dr. K

I just tested positive for herpes last week. I have been in a monogamous homosexual relationship with another woman for 5 years. Neither of us had experienced symptoms of herpes before. I am curious if any research has been done on gay woman to woman infection. Also, I asked my doctor about the initial infection, and she said I would have noticed within 2 weeks. I feel that it may have been from before our relationship, on either side, but I am not sure whether my doctor is correct. I am feeling extremely self conscious now of my sexual relations with my life partner. Were concerned about transferring the virus when I am not symptomatic.

As you experienced, many people never show symptoms for herpes, even just after infection. If your partner has not been tested yet, she should be, since lacking symptoms does not mean she does not have the infection already.

Herpes is transmitted skin-to-skin during oral, anal, and vaginal sex, so the mode of spread remains relatively consistent whether in a homosexual or heterosexual relationship. Increasingly herpes simplex virus type 1 is being documented as being spread during oral-anal or oral-vaginal sex. Studies have shown that people with herpes can shed the virus and potentially spread it about 10% of the time (3 or 4 days a month) and not have any symptoms. Since not having sexual contact is not feasible for most of us, Id recommend that newly diagnosed patients confirm the diagnosis and talk to their doctor about herpes medications like acyclovir that have been shown to decrease the spread of herpes from a person with herpes who takes the medication to the uninfected partner.

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To your health,
Dr. K

Last modified on Wednesday, November 18, 2009.
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