I've been on a few dates with this guy. We rolled around in bed the other night but didn't have sex. In the morning, he told me that he has genital herpes. I really like him and am willing to try and work around it, but how do you have sex with someone who has herpes and not contract the disease?
Ready and Willing, (female, 29)
Dear Ready and Willing,
The short answer is very, very carefully ... but it's not impossible. Genital herpes is more common than you might think. According to the World Health Organization, 67 percent of the global population under the age of 50 has herpes simplex type 1. (Mainly transmitted orally, this type is best known for cold sores but can also cause genital herpes.) Another 11 percent between the ages of 15 and 49 has herpes simplex type 2 (which is transmitted sexually and causes genital herpes).
Oddly enough, many people who have genital herpes never experience symptoms but can still spread the virus. So, let's look on the bright side and consider it a good thing that your partner knows he has it and has been up-front with you about it.
Hopefully he's already taking a daily anti-herpes medication; if not, he should discuss that with his doctor ASAP. You should never have sex — vaginal, anal or oral — when he's experiencing symptoms (aka "having an outbreak"). Between outbreaks, make sure everything is wrapped up tight. Dental dams and latex condoms all around! While they are no guarantee against infection, they do provide some protection.
Even though treatment is available and the disease is fairly easy to manage, herpes is incurable. It's called "the gift that keeps on giving" because you have it and can spread it forever. Before you go all the way with this fella, do some research — on the disease and him. You need to be certain he's worth the risk.
Good luck and God bless,