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My friend cheated on her boyfriend and now she has genital herpes. She swears that they used condoms during their sexual activities and she cannot believe it. She is also worried about her boyfriend - if she has herpes and she used condoms, how can she have sex with her boyfriend without giving it to him. Do you have any information on how effective condoms really are in protection from herpes?

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The virus causing genital herpes actually ‘works’ by creating sores, lesions or blisters in areas around genitals or on the sex organs themselves. Once you get herpes you have it for a lifetime and the best way to prevent transmission to your sexual partner is to avoid sex. This is, of course, the most rigid way (but the only 100% sure way), and you can have sex without giving the virus to your partner, you just have to be very careful. Condoms are a good way to drastically lessen the opportunity of getting in touch with your partner’s sores and blisters, but they are not completely reliable. It is possible that you get herpes even if you used condoms - if your genital area gets in touch with sores that are not covered with condom (e.g. sores on thighs), or if you participate in oral sex without protection or if you have cuts or sores on your skin and they get in contact with the infected places on your partner’s body. The situation is even more complicated if we take into consideration the fact that the infected person is might not be experiencing those most obvious symptoms at the time of the intercourse (there are people who never in their life experience the symptoms although their body contains the virus). So a message for your friend would be to inform her boyfriend about her condition and talk to him about the methods of protection. Not telling him and getting him infected would be very selfish and irresponsible thing to do.
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