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Health Information Center

Reducing Your Risk of Genital Herpes

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Reducing Your Risk of Genital Herpes

Any person who has sex can get genital herpes. The best way to avoid it is to not have oral, vaginal, and anal sex.

Take these steps to lower your risk:

  • Have sex with only one partner who does not have the virus.
  • Always use a latex condom during sex.
  • If your partner has cold sores , do not kiss or have oral sex. The virus that causes cold sores can be spread to the genital and anal areas.
  • Avoid risky sex, such as sex without a condom or sex with someone you do not know.
  • Know if you or your partner has the virus. Talk about sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Have regular checkups. Get screening tests if your doctor advises them.
  • Counseling may be needed if you have sex that puts you at risk.
  • Talk to your doctor about your risks and any concerns you have about STIs.


  • 2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/default.htm. Updated January 25, 2017. Accessed August 10, 2018.
  • Genital herpes. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114875/Genital-herpes . Updated February 19, 2018. Accessed August 10, 2018.
  • Genital herpes. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/herpesviruses/genital-herpes. Updated February 2018. Accessed August 10, 2018.
  • Genital herpes—CDC fact sheet (detailed). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes-detailed.htm. Updated February 9, 2017. Accessed August 10, 2018.
  • Groves MJ. Genital herpes: a review. Am Fam Physician. 2016;93(11):928-934.
  • 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 http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115615/Gonococcal-urethritis : 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.


  • Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.