The short answer unfortunately, is no, it is not entirely safe for either of you. Here´s why…

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) states that genital herpes, while most commonly caused by the HSV-2 (Herpes Simplex Virus type 2), can also be caused by HSV-1 (Herpes Simplex Virus type 1) – also known as ‘Cold Sores’. There is in fact some crossover between the two types; oral sex can transmit HSV-1 to the genitals, and vaginal or anal intercourse can transfer HSV-2 to the lips. The American Health Association explains that under a microscope, the two viruses genetically are actually 50% identical both affecting mucus membranes of the body, often with few or no symptoms, and both having reoccurring episodes of blistering outbreaks. The primary difference is in which mucus membrane the two strains of the virus tend to prefer, either mouth or genitals.

Your girlfriend already has HSV-2, but you can still infect her with HSV-1 via oral sex, especially if you are having an active outbreak. Since you do not have HSV-2, but rather the less-stigmatized strain of the virus (HSV-1), oral sex is not 100% safe for you either. While the highest risk for infection is during an active outbreak of genital herpes (commonly presenting as blisters or open sores), a person can still contract the virus when no visible symptoms are present. Unbeknownst to most, and not widely discussed, the American Health Association claims that HSV-1 may actually be the more dangerous of the two strains of herpes. They claim that there is a common misconception that HSV-1 is a mild, sometimes bothersome, but never dangerous infection. The reality is that, there have been cases in which it has re-occurred in the eye causing ocular herpes (a rare but serious infection that can lead to blindness), infection of the brain causing herpes encephalitis (with potential for mortality), and herpes infections of the finger, chest, or face. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause neonatal herpes infections, two-thirds being infected by HSV-2 and the other third by HSV-1.

Health professionals recommend various methods to protect yourself and your partner: those who have genital herpes abstaining from sexual activity with uninfected persons, at the very least consistently and correctly using latex condoms to reduce risk of transmission, and restraining from sexual activity during periods of outbreaks.

Both types of herpes are extremely common, and under most circumstances do not pose a major health threat. The important thing to recognize is that there is the risk of transmission for both you and your girlfriend, to have open and honest communication between the two of you, and from there to take the appropriate measures to protect yourselves.

Posted: 17 Aug 05:08