Originally Posted by Vicki82
. . . but isn't herpes transmissible even using a condom?
It's probably my biggest concern about having multiple partners. I confess I would not want to have sexual contact with a person who told me they had herpes because I wouldn't be comfortable with the risk. Does that make me a bad person?
No, you're not a bad person!
Herpes can be transmitted when the virus erupts and sheds, which is periodically - usually when the person is stressed. If you come in contact with the actual sore or blister, that's how you get it. When it isn't shedding, it lays dormant in the spinal column. So you can have sex with someone who has herpes and isn't shedding without worry. But you can get it if they are shedding and the eruption site is outside of the condom-protected area AND you come into contact with it. Most folks who are aware they have herpes say they know when an eruption is about to happen - they can feel some itching beforehand - but asymptomatic shedding can also occur. I've also heard that most people with herpes don't know they have it. So, you can play it as safe as you can, but there are always risks to get something from someone.
The medications for herpes suppress the viral shedding by "fooling" it with a substance (I think an amino acid, not sure) that connects to it and which it needs -- this prevents eruption, which is pretty much like not having herpes at all. It's also good to support the immune system with herbal supplements, which help when the body is stressed. Some people are very relaxed about herpes, and consider it nothing more than a "pesky skin condition," while others totally freak out about it probably because it's associated with sex. Chicken pox and shingles are forms of herpes also. The Herpes virus can be killed with soap and water, if you wash before infection takes place. So take a shower after sex - but don't share towels!
One's level of misery with HSV1, known as "oral herpes," or HSV2, known as "genital herpes," probably depends on where the eruption happens. The herpes virus, once lodged in the spine, always takes the same route via the nervous system to the skin's surface and so the outbreak is always in the same spot. So, if you get a little patch on your upper buttocks or thigh, probably no biggie (and easier to avoid or cover up during sex, I think), but if the eruption always happens on the genitals, ouchie! But you can get HSV1 on the genitals and HSV2 on the mouth. I think about 80% of the population has HSV1 anyway, usually by kisses from grandma, and I've heard that somewhere around 50% has HSV2.
Sites to learn more:
For threads here on STIs and safer sex:
Safe Sex - Standards, Practices, Information & Resources
HPV - Shouldn't we talk about it? (there is some talk about herpes in this thread, not just HPV)