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There are a number of techniques which can be used to radically reduce the risk of contracting herpes. However, people should be aware that the only foolproof method for herpes prevention is to abstain entirely from close physical contact with anyone who has not been recently screened for herpes. All sexually active individuals should make a habit of being regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections, including herpes, as it is possible to carry an infection without being aware of it, and herpes is actually extremely common in the general population.
Being in a monogamous relationship can greatly reduce the risk of contracting herpes, as long as both partners are tested at the start of the relationship to confirm their herpes status. If both partners are negative, the risks of contracting herpes infection are eliminated. In cases where one partner has herpes and the other one does not, several methods can be used by both partners to prevent herpes infection in the partner who does not have the disease.
During an active herpes outbreak, people should avoid contact with the herpes sores, as the sores actively shed the virus and this is the primary method of herpes transmission. The easiest way to do this may be to abstain from sexual activity. Partners should be aware that herpes sores can spread virus to any area of the body; for example, oral-genital contact can result in the spread of herpes if sores are present on the mouth or genitals. If couples do want to engage in sexual activity while one partner is having an outbreak, barrier methods like condoms or dental dam should be used for all sexual contact, including kissing if sores are present on or around the mouth.
Medications like acyclovir can be used to suppress herpes outbreaks and viral shedding, reducing the risk of spreading herpes infection. People with herpes who take these medications should still alert their partners to their disease status, as the medications cannot completely prevent the spread of the disease, making it important for partners to be aware of the need to exercise precautions. Herpes infection can also occur when people experience so-called prodromal symptoms, in which no sores are present, but tingling and soreness indicate that an outbreak is about to occur.
Open disclosures about disease status at the start of a relationship are very important, and they can cut down on the risk of herpes infection and transmission of other sexually transmitted infections. Individuals with herpes should make sure that they are armed with informational pamphlets and other material when they discuss their disease status, so that their can provide their partners with accurate factual information about the risks and steps which can be taken to prevent herpes infection. People who know that they do not have herpes or other chronic sexually transmitted infections should be aware that many of these diseases are accompanied with stigma, and that honest disclosures of disease status should be treated with respect and support to encourage people to be open about the infections they carry.
@cmsmith10- I think that what your school is doing is a great idea. I am not a counselor but I work as a teaching assistant and I end up talking to a lot of the kids about personal things such as infectious diseases.
We had a guest speaker to come to our school a few months ago. It also was mandatory attendance. She was 20 years old and she had genital herpes infection. She has been going to different schools telling her story and motivating others to practice abstinence or to use protection. She said that she contracted herpes during one sexual encounter. Only one.
I work as a school counselor and have had many teenagers come to my office wanting to talk about infectious diseases, such as herpes. Of course, my first response is always to practice abstinence. However, in this day and time, that is not always practical.
I try to stress to the kids that have admitted to being sexually active that using a condom is essential. The teenage girls that I talk to tell me that the guys don't like using condoms. The peer pressure is overwhelming to them in their desire to feel loved or wanted.
Since the number of teenagers wanting to talk to me about herpes and other diseases has increased, we have started having a
mandatory meeting once a month in our gym. Most of the kids don't mind it because it gets them out of math class! We stress to the guys that they should not put a girl in that position. We stress to the girls that they do not have to participate in sexual activity to be loved.