Should I disclose oral herpes before kissing?

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Should I disclose oral herpes before kissing?

This is a question brought up a lot on the Herpes Opportunity forums.

“Should I disclose that I get cold sores to potential partners before kissing them?”

Which way to go on this can be a confusing one, simply because it’s up to the individual on what feels right.

So let’s get into this question a bit deeper, shall we?

The reason this conversation is a bit hard to pin down is because when it comes to oral herpes (almost always HSV-1) specifically, 47% of Americans 14-49 years old have it. Now that’s about half the people in that age group, isn’t it?. So considering this statistic, who holds the responsibility of bringing up the topic? (In a perfect world, we all would be talking about every aspect of our sexual and intimate histories with each other before getting intimate at all, but that ain’t the world we live in.)

Here’s another way to think of this without herpes specifically as the topic … Here’s the scenario: Five out of 10 people in a room are sick with the flu virus. All 10 people know before walking into the room that half of the people in that room are sick with the flu. Which group should be covering their mouths? The 5 people who are sick or the 5 people who aren’t? You’ll find people to argue either point. What it comes down to is this: What does your integrity tell you to do considering the circumstances? Would you feel guilty if you kissed someone without telling them you are a carrier of oral herpes (cold sores)? (Of course it goes without saying that if you're having an actual active outbreak that you don't kiss people.)

My personal opinion is we just have the conversation, regardless of whether or not herpes is on the mouth or genitals. It’s still an opportunity to have an important conversation and care about someone else’s health. Imagine if before we even kissed, a nonchalant “Hey, just FYI I get cold sores — just like about half of everyone — and just wanted to let you know. Do you get cold sores?” Doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker-feeling conversation. No shame. No guilt. No weirdness. Just a simple conversation about herpes. No biggie. That’s the world I want to live in. Where everyone can talk openly about something simple like herpes so it can open the door to deeper conversations and deeper connection.

"Yeah, but what about kissing ‘down there’?" (Nudge, nudge)

This leads to the obvious next question that’s asked … what about herpes and oral sex? You see, this is where this discussion gets fascinating (as far as I’m concerned). Why? Because what if someone has oral HSV-1 (read about the differences between HSV-1 and HSV-2) and that person goes down on their partner then the HSV 1oral infection, with or without symptoms,  could be transmitted to the genitals of their partner, if they don’t already have HSV 1.  The reverse is unlikely to happen – if someone has genital HSV 1 and someone who doesn’t have HSV 1 gives them oral sex, the virus is far less likely to be transferred to the mouth of the uninfected person.  The reason that’s true is because HSV 1 genitally is rarely active, especially after someone has been infected for a year or two.

This confusing double standard between no shame in oral herpes, but too much shame in genital herpes is proof positive to me that our culture has a severe sexual shaming problem. The fact that we get something through kissing doesn’t have any stigma, but if we get something through expressing ourselves sexually, that's shameful? Time to realize that sex is a natural, beautiful thing. No shame belongs in sex.

P.S. This video is part of the free "inside coaching" series.

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