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You can reduce the risk of passing the herpes virus (herpes simplex virus, or HSV) to your sexual partners by taking the following steps:

  • Tell current sexual partners that you have genital herpes. You also should tell future partners before having sexual contact.

  • Be alert to the symptoms that signal an outbreak is coming. Avoid sexual contact from the time you feel symptoms until a few days after the sores have gone away.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after any possible contact with sores.

  • Take antiviral medication on a daily basis (also called suppressive therapy).

  • Use male latex condoms. (Condoms may reduce your risk of passing HSV, but they do not provide complete protection.)

It’s also important to know that you can pass HSV to someone else even when you do not have sores (one of the symptoms of herpes). The virus can be present on skin that looks normal, including right before and after an outbreak.

See Genital Herpes to learn more.

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Published: October 2020

Last reviewed: October 2020

Copyright 2020 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Read copyright and permissions information.

This information is designed as an educational aid to patients and sets forth current information and opinions related to women’s health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care, nor does it comprise all proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for a treating clinician’s independent professional judgment. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.