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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex Basics and Sexual Health » HSV-1 transmission through oral sex

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Author Topic: HSV-1 transmission through oral sex
Member # 48050

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So here is the situation:
-I have oral herpes simplex 1 virus
-I want to go down on my girlfriend , but she is afraid I will transmit it to her and give her genital herpes.
-I am not showing symptoms, nor have I in a few years.
-She thinks using Saran wrap is "too weird."

So basically, she doesnt want me down there with my tongue.

I understand that she could be using this as an excuse to hold off for now, but let us presume that is not the case. I will worry about that on my own.

Basically, I want to know the approximate risk of passing it to her genitals in a one-time scenario assuming that I am not currently in the middle of an outbreak.

I read online that if a couple has sex during non-outbreaks there is only about a 5% PER YEAR probability of transmission from male to female. However, this is assuming it is HSV2 which is the type more common to genital transmission. Now, I kind of want to think that this number comes in large part to periods of sexual intimacy during which there is an outbreak but no symptoms yet, but I honestly can't claim I know the origin of that figure.

So presuming sex once per day, .05/365 ~ .0001 or about one in 10,000 per single event (Im a physicist, I like to approximate). And you have to presume the transmission of HSV1 to the genital region is much less, so I want to think its closer to 1/100,000 ? But I am guessing the odds are even lower than that.

I know even if it were the other way around, I would n't care too much about the risk as I dont think its worth it to try and live in that much of a bubble, but thats just me.

What do you guys think?

Posts: 6 | From: Internet | Registered: Jul 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 47280

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Hi, another physicist here.

So if she thinks using Saran wrap is too weird, how does she feel about dental dams made especially for the purpose of safer oral sex? Does she think condoms are weird?

Oh, and I don't think that someone with oral herpes virus can transmit genital herpes virus. They're just two different viruses. You can get genital herpes on your mouth, and you can get oral herpes on your genital area.

So, I don't know what the actual numbers are and not going to take the time to go work them up. The important point is that if she is not comfortable with that activity, that's the end of it.

The last thing I want to see anyone try to do is respond to that with a Powerpoint presentation about epidemiology and infection rates. Even assuming that "talking her into it" would be an OK thing to do, this approach would be disastrous.

I think you should ask her if it's ok to discuss the topic with her. If she says yes, then you can talk about what her specific fears are in greater detail. But if she says no, then drop it and don't bring it up again until she does.


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Posts: 116 | From: Texas | Registered: May 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 48050

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Just to clarify, she is worried about catching HSV-1 in her genital area, not getting HSV-2 from my HSV-1.
Posts: 6 | From: Internet | Registered: Jul 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Honestly, the chances of her getting HSV-1 genitally when you don't have/are not getting an outbreak are very low. If she isn't comfortable with any level of risk though, that's her call - it's her body and she gets to have that boundary. You can absolutely ask to discuss this with her more, but she gets the final say.

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

Posts: 5799 | From: Canada/Australia | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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I want to support what's already been said here: this is mostly about what your partner is and is not comfortable with. We all get to choose what level of risk we want to take, what safety precautions we're comfortable with, and opt out of either and nix a kind of sex if we want. ideally, our sexual partners will support us in this.

But just so you also have some extra facts, of late, quite a few reports have come out showing that HSV-1 is an increasing source of herpes transmission genitally, especially among younger people. By all means, this is MOST common when there is an active outbreak or one on the way, but some folks have such mild outbreaks, they don't even know they have had them, so a person wanting to be cautious is reasonable.

I can't give you numbers like you're asking for, but I'd posit the level of risk is higher than you're thinking unless you take acyclovir. Most stats show that about 1/3rd of new herpes infections transmitted genitally are HSV-1, not 2. It's transmission of HSV-2 orally that's more uncommon.

Here's one of those studies for you to peek at yourself:

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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