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Any person who is sexually active can be infected with genital herpes. Abstaining from oral, vaginal, and anal sex is the most assured way to remain uninfected. However, if you are sexually active, there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk of becoming infected with genital herpes:

  • Have a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.
  • Always use a latex condom during all sexual activity. Proper and consistent use of condoms is important in order for them to be effective.
  • Avoid kissing and oral sex if your partner has cold sores. Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) can be spread to the genital and anal areas through oral sex.
  • Avoid risky behaviors, such as unprotected or anonymous sex.
  • Know your status and your partner's status. Openly discuss sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
  • Have regular checkups and get any recommended screening tests.
  • Behavioral counseling may be advised if you are a sexually active person who engages in risky sexual practices.
  • Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and any concerns you have about STDs.

STD testing is the best way to monitor your status and your partner's status. Don't let the cost of healthcare deter you from knowing your status. Many local clinics and health facilities offer free screening tests.


2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated March 9, 2016. Accessed June 6, 2016.

Beauman JG. Genital herpes: a review. Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(8):1527-1534.

Genital herpes. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated August 22, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.

Genital herpes—CDC fact sheet (detailed). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated November 17, 2015. Accessed June 6, 2016.

Jones CA. Vertical transmission of genital herpes: prevention and treatment options. Drugs. 2009;69(4):421-434.

3/17/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance LeFevre ML, US Preventive Services Task Force. Behavioral counseling interventions to prevent sexually transmitted infections: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(12):894-901.

Last reviewed June 2016 by James Cornell, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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