Condoms and Sex with Herpes
Condoms don’t prevent herpes transmission, but they help, cutting down the rate of transmission by about 30%. Condoms are not totally effective because genital herpes only require skin-to-skin contact to spread, so the areas that the condom does not cover are still susceptible. Some people get herpes even though they’ve always used condoms! Nonetheless, using a condom is a great idea and reducing the chancing by almost a third is nothing to sneeze at. For example, if you’re a man who is not having an outbreak, you would have an 8% chance of giving it to your partner. But using a condom, you’d bring that number down. (Add in antivirals, and you’ve brought it down to 2%).
Monogamous couples who know their status may want to forgo the use of condoms for whatever reason (i.e. in order to get pregnant, or because condoms are just not preferred and they are monogamous and use birth control). This is still possible as long as other precautions are taken and both parties are informed and aware of the risks.
Why Don’t Condoms Prevent Herpes?
It’s possible to get herpes with a condom because genital herpes is a viral infection transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. Condoms just don’t necessarily cover all of the skin surface areas that may be affected. For example, the virus can affect areas such as the penile shaft that the condom doesn’t cover, vulva, thighs, buttocks, and other skin around the genitals or anogenital region.