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Will my partner get HSV if we have unprotected sex during non-outbreak?

The following is an actual conversation between an iCliniq user and a doctor that has been reviewed and published as a Premium Q&A.

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At July 7, 2018
Reviewed AtJuly 7, 2018

Patient's Query

Hello doctor,

I have herpes 2 and have taken Valtrex for three years faithfully and last outbreak was two years ago. My labs show that my numbers were very low. Trying to explain to a new partner:

  1. Never have sex if I have an outbreak.
  2. Condoms are recommended by doctors for all sex because there is the possibility of transmitting HSV even if there is not an outbreak. He thinks this is excessive and unnecessary because it is a legal issue of liability. He also thinks he is smarter than doctors.

My question is that if we have unprotected sex during a non-outbreak, is it 100 % certain that he will get HSV? We read that his hands touch my herpes outbreak area, he could wash his hands after and he would not get HSV. Does this apply to his tongue to the same genital area, just cleanse the mouth and teeth and what if there is no outbreak, is oral sex safe for him? Yes, we know about dental dams.


Welcome to icliniq.com.

Regarding your first question, it is better to avoid sex during an outbreak because there is a high risk of transmission during this period. Also, it would be painful to have sex if lesion involving near the vagina.

Next thing, it is possible to acquire an infection during non-outbreak duration as there is asymptomatic viral shedding although the risk of infection is less. So it is better to take precautions in order to avoid transmission. In hand, we have a protective epidermal layer, which prevents direct transmission of viruses unless there is a break or wound. But, same is not true for tongue and mucosa as there is no protective layer. So, it can directly transmit infection. So oral transmission may occur irrespective of washing teeth or tongue.

For more information consult an internal medicine physician online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/internal-medicine-physician

Patient's Query

Than you doctor,

If a man uses a condom how can herpes be transmitted by the female? Only when there is an outbreak lesion that touches the penis not covered by the condom? My case: I have one small outbreak area in the front of the vagina on the labial fold. That area is touched by the condom. Therefore, how can herpes be spread to my partner? If a hand touches the lesion and it is recommended that you wash your hands and very little chance for transmitting, then would that not be the same hygiene for the male to wash the genital area after the condom come off or before the condom comes off? With soap, alcohol, peroxide? What is the name of the medical specialty that I should see?


Welcome back to icliniq.com.

Firstly, with a condom on, there is less chance of spread as the penis is covered with a protective condom. Actually, it is not the penis skin which is prone for transmission but it is a glans skin which does not have a protective epidermal layer. So same explanation is there as that of the tongue. In specialty you may contact, infectious disease specialist or dermatologist, both deal with it.

For more information consult an internal medicine physician online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/internal-medicine-physician

Same symptoms don't mean you have the same problem. Consult a doctor now!

Dr. Sagar Ramesh Makode
Dr. Sagar Ramesh Makode


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